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The IT revolution has changed every aspect of our lives. Now it’s coming to the factory floor.

Recently the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) announced plans to create the nation’s first open smart manufacturing technology platform.

The initial goal? Let manufacturing operators use “big data” from plants to improve safety as well as reduce environmental impact, energy, water and materials. Once it’s developed, it will have a thousand other applications. 

This is made possible by a 2013 Clean Energy Manufacturing contract, which creates an innovative $10 million project with $7.8 million in funding from the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

The first project objectives are to design a platform to actively manage energy use in plant production systems. The platform will show how real-time management of energy use can be applied across U.S. manufacturing companies.

The project’s technologies could demonstrate how to make U.S. manufacturers more competitive by reducing annual generation of CO2 emissions by 69 million tons and waste heat by 1.3 quads, or approximately 1.3 percent of total U.S. energy use.

This will be a big improvement from the past two decades, when most U.S. manufacturers have managed energy efficiency in their factories and plants passively instead of actively, according to R. Neal Elliott, Director of Research at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

His research estimates that we can reduce U.S. manufacturing energy by more than half in the next 20 years as smart technologies actively manage energy. 

Jim Davis, UCLA Vice Provost IT / CTO, adds that there is an “unprecedented convergence” in the ability to work with big data, which will impact manufacturing.

“Smart Manufacturing is manufacturing in which all needed information is available when it is needed, where it is needed and in the form it is most useful” he said “The SMLC encompasses the essential collaboration for bringing the massive potential of today’s digital information to America’s plants and factories as the speed of business is accelerating.”