Where Manufacturing Matters


Posted by John Colm, WIRE-Net President and Executive Director on Dec 11, 2017, 2:32:04 PM

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2020 Vision Mind Map

Ubuntu is a Zulu phrase which, loosely translated, implies that you are a person because of other people.

Well, WIRE-Net's 2020 VISION Strategic Direction exists because of other people. WIRE-Net's Board of Directors undertook the plan in large part because of the tremendous changes – in demographics, economics, technology, and politics – taking place in our region and in manufacturing.

We didn't just talk to each other, however. An earlier blog-post walked through the extensive process we used to define our 2020 VISION. Suffice it to say that, all told, probably close to 150 people leaned in to help us stop "stumbling 'round blind" and clear our 2020 VISION. As the Zulu would put it: Ubuntu: "WIRE-Net saw them, and we see more clearly now our 2020 VISION."

WIRE-Net's Board approved the 2020 VISION Strategic Direction at its October 18 meeting.

The plan really boils down to three components that WIRE-Net will be planning for and implementing beginning in 2018, WIRE-Net's 30th Anniversary year: Talent, Technology (the Industrial Internet of Things), and Capacity. In this blog post, I'm tackling the twin programmatic components.


It takes some unpacking to understand the issues that create or contribute to the talent development challenges facing greater Cleveland manufacturers.

First, there is the long-standing issue of the crappy image of manufacturing. For many, if they have an image of the sector at all, it isn't positive. They likely perceive manufacturing through a lens smudged with cyclical layoffs, plant closings or relocations, and misconceptions that all factory work is dark, dirty, dangerous work done dirt cheap by dumb people, and that it's repetitive and boring. Despite efforts like the National Association of Manufacturers' "Dream It – Do It" the image problem persists.

2020 Vision Present TrendsA second factor is the impending "silver tsunami," a wave of boomer retirements that will affect everyone from tool-room managers, to skilled technicians and operations directors, not to mention owners. Companies need to find ways of creating succession plans for their key positions, not "just" ownership, and the plans need to address how "tribal knowledge" will be transferred. And given retirements, what will companies be doing to effectively promote opportunities in their firm to up and coming high-school and post-secondary students?

WIRE-Net's response is still emerging, but we are working to expand our initiatives to modernize approaches by manufacturers to using apprenticeships for adults and at the high school level to refresh the talent pipeline for skilled manufacturing technicians, while also conducting manufacturing career awareness for students in grades 6 to 8. This means partnering with youth serving organizations, expanding our high school partnerships beyond Max Hayes while helping ensure that the manufacturing programs at Max Hayes are fully subscribed.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT):

The convergence of fast growing computing power and decreasing sensor costs are just two of the drivers of the IIoT. Additional market drivers include an expanding internet, smart phone adoption, and the growing number of large Internet of Things investments by actors in both the public and private sectors. Manufacturers investing in IoT report improvements to innovation, their competitive edge, and reducing operating costs. But there are serious barriers to quicker adoption as well, including resource constraints, cyber-security concerns, and uncertainty about return on investment.

WIRE-Net is partnering with the engineering and business schools at CWRU and CSU to begin the process of identifying IIoT enabled solutions to manufacturing challenges. We are also supporting a broader regional collaboration involving positioning Northeast Ohio as a hotspot of IoT technology development. Our challenge will be to find tools, strategies, and roadmaps to help our members and stakeholders to make smart investments that make sense for their companies.

It's an important—and large—challenge. The Industrial Internet of Things market is projected to be roughly 2½ times the size of consumer-based IoT or $1.2 to $3.7 trillion by 2025, according to analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute. McKinsey lists the top four IIoT applications in "factory settings" as operations improvement, predictive maintenance, inventory optimization, and health and safety.

Let me know what you think about our 2020 VISION. You can read the entire plan or just my executive summary.

Topics: Workforce Development, IoT, Internet of Things, 2020 Vision, Talent

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