Digital Transformation Toolkit for SMMs

This project will develop actionable resources to help small and medium manufacturers (SMMs) “get started” in digital manufacturing through implementing detailed case studies at SMM testbeds.


The internet is riddled with success stories from larger manufacturers that capture how the technologies of Industry 4.0, such as automation and model-based engineering tools, are reducing their costs, maximizing productivity and allowing manufacturers to build better quality parts for their partners. Even with these successes, there is still a gap in translating these stories into a format that also motivates small and mid-sized manufacturers to employ new technologies to increase their competitiveness. The SMM community needs actionable insights and examples that will help them answer the question: "Where should I get started and what steps should I take to maximize my ROI in digital manufacturing technology?”

Proposed Solution

The team will create a “how to get started” playbook for creating an Industry 4.0 investment plan as a smaller manufacturer. This would include a methodology for evaluating a business for I4.0 opportunities, criteria for selecting highest value use cases, generic ROI calculation for those use cases, and best practices for benchmarking, implementing, and sustaining these practices. In addition, the project team will develop a “digital for everyone” playbook for a small-scale I4.0 pilot that small manufacturers can run at low-cost with minimal investment. This will leverage open-source tools, off-the-shelf material, best practices on implementation, and guidance on how to reap the most value as a business prepares to scale. Finally, the project will result in a detailed ROI case study documenting the experience and providing more actionable insights for readers so that they feel confident taking a step to invest.


The resources developed through this project will minimize the barriers to investment that SMMs currently face when trying to implement digital manufacturing technologies. Given the large percentage of SMMs in the U.S. manufacturing sector, the increased adoption of digital manufacturing by SMMs can have a material impact on the nation’s manufacturing competitiveness.