7 Things Digital Manufacturers Need Now That They Don’t Have

…and what MxD is doing in the next two years to make them happen

MxD is committed to helping American manufacturers of all sizes forge their digital futures. Here’s a sneak peak at some of the projects MxD has going on right now, and the needs they’re trying to fill.  

1. An “idiot’s guide” to digital manufacturing 

Here’s the sobering reality: More than three quarters of small and medium-sized manufacturers say they have no plans to digitize their operations. We understand why they should, and can show these owners how to get started.

Our role: We’re going to write that guide.

2. An electronic records system for parts 

It’s time to go paperless. Paperwork that goes out with product on a truck shouldn’t have to be re-entered into a new system, by hand, when that product arrives at its next destination in the supply chain. That’s inefficient and introduces mistakes.

Our role: We’re calling this a digital manifest, and we’re seeking a funder to pay for its development.

3. We have to make manufacturing sexy — as a career.

Manufacturing is facing both a digital skills gap — with about 500,000 industry jobs vacant — and a perception gap. Parents are discouraging children from entering the field. Yet, in 2018, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $87,185 annually, including pay and benefits. 

Our role: MxD Learn, our workforce development initiative, is rolling out a digital manufacturing curriculum at high schools in Waukegan, Ill., and elsewhere in 2020. We’re also developing a Hiring Guide that lays out the path to cybersecurity jobs in manufacturing that will be necessary in the near future.

4. Universal digital serialization protocols, aka digital fingerprinting

Technology has advanced to the point where manufacturers don’t have to etch a part with a serial number like a cattle brand. Instead, they can place a tiny digital  fingerprint on the part. This helps customers and manufacturers trace faulty parts back to the source to jumpstart safety recalls. It’s also a potent tool in the fight against counterfeiting.

Our role: We have a demo of this technology on our factory floor in Chicago. 

5. An automated way to test weld quality

Experienced welders inspect their work through methods like listening to the sound of the metal cooling or watching the color of the weld. Our first effort to automate this quality check didn’t work, and we’re going to try again.

Our role: We’re funding early-stage research on this.

6. Cybersecurity for manufacturing in a box

Manufacturers need a cybersecurity kit that identifies every device plugged into a factory’s server, so that unknown devices can be found and removed. It literally needs to be the size of a toaster and almost as easy to use. 

Our role: MxD Cyber: The National Center for Cybersecurity in Manufacturing aims to increase manufacturers’ awareness of their cyber vulnerabilities. One way we’ll help them is by developing a prototype of the kit.

7. An early warning system for supply chain disruptions

Just-in-time production is great until it’s time and your parts aren’t there. This warning system uses an algorithm to gather weather, traffic and social media data and predict potential risks to your supply chain, such as early signs of a mysterious virus. 

Our role: We’ll pilot an early version of this product in 2020.

For a complete catalog of our planned projects, please download MxD’s 2020-2022 Strategic Investment Plan. Free Download

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