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When: The Revolution is Coming!

Unlike the start of other great American revolutions like the shot heard around the world, even the smartest people alive at the time did not understand when or why the last industrial revolution precisely began, according to Northwestern University’s eminent Dean of Engineering Julio Ottino. In January 2010, Ottino predicted that the next American industrial revolution called “Smart Manufacturing” is coming soon. “It’s just a matter of time,” he proclaimed not on the covers of Nature, Science, Scientific American, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, like his other impressive findings that impacted fields as diverse as complex systems, fluid dynamics, granular dynamics, microfluidics, and geophysical science. Instead Ottino explained to the Captains of Industry today in a venerable Wall Street Journal editorial why they may miss the start as well as the enormous impact of this coming Smart Manufacturing revolution — just like their forebearers did during past individual revolutions.

This website is dedicated to fostering, fomenting and ultimately starting the long-awaited IT revolution in American factories today. It aims to wisely follow simple steps laid out in “How to Start a Revolution” by Gene Sharp, founder of the Albert Einstein Institution. It’s larger mission is to inspire a populist American movement that will take our great society out of the dark, dirty, dangerous and dumb era of 20th Century industries, and into a bright new-age of smart, safe, sustainable and surging manufacturing for our children and grandchildren in the 21st Century.

In the midst of a civil war, the first Republican leader Abraham Lincoln quietly but profoundly established Ag Universities as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture which over the course of the next 150 years would eventually earn our nation its esteemed reputation as the “breadbasket to the world.”

In a similar higher purpose, this website humbly calls for a comprehensive K-16 technical educational system including Smart Manufacturing Universities for applied research (not basic science) and the establishment of a U.S. Department of Manufacturing that 150 years from now could eventually earn our nation a well-deserved reputation as the “Supplier to the World!”

Make no little plans. As one nation under God, it is our duty and our destiny for America to both feed and supply the world.

The journey has already started. To both keep us all entertained and aware that we’re making progress in the long journey ahead of us, this website will tell stories. Stories about the Captains of Industry today leading us through the turbulent times of this IT-driven industrial revolution. Stories about past industrial revolutionaries so that we learn lessons from their mistakes lest we repeat them like we’re already doing.  Stories about current and future U.S. government leaders strategizing bold policies and big programs for ever smarter factories in America.

This long journey will have at least three phases prophesied by Dr. Sujeet Chand and Dr. Jim Davis –two little known godfathers of the American Smart Manufacturing movement.


What are the profound step-changes coming in the way goods are manufactured? This  transformative shift to the next generation of highly-automated and IT-driven factories — or “Smart Manufacturing” is expected to occur in the following three general phases.

1. Plant- and Enterprise-wide Integration
In its first phase, smart manufacturing will interconnect and better harmonize individual stages of the production process to advance plant-wide efficiencies. A typical manufacturing plant uses a growing number of different information technologies (IT), with a microprocessor chip on nearly every sensor and motors/actuator, computerized controls, and production management software. Each one manages a specific stage or operation of a manufacturing process. However, each is an island of efficiency.

Smart manufacturing must first bridge and integrate these islands, enabling data sharing throughout the plant. The convergence between machine-gathered data and human intelligence will advance plant-wide optimization and enterprise-wide management objectives, including substantial increases in economic performance, worker safety and environmental sustainability. The emergence of this “manufacturing intelligence” will usher in the second phase of smart manufacturing.

2. From Plant-wide Optimization to Manufacturing Intelligence
Connecting the multitude of different in-plant data sources with high performance computing platforms will make it possible to develop significantly higher levels of manufacturing intelligence to optimize factories of the future. Complete production lines and entire plants will run with real-time flexibility — which is not feasible now — in order to conserve energy and optimize outputs. Businesses will be able to develop advanced models and simulations of manufacturing processes to improve current and future operations.

The second phase of smart manufacturing also will connect factory-specific information to data throughout the supply chain — from raw material availability and customer demand through the delivery of finished goods. It will facilitate the use of smart grids to schedule energy-intensive activities during low-demand periods and slow production during peak energy demands. It will enable greater product customization, new product simulations and new, more efficient processes. It will support the production of safer products and precisely defined, faster product tracking.

3. Manufacturing Knowledge Will Inevitably Disrupt Markets
The companies and countries that strategically start this journey toward smart manufacturing and are first to reach the third phase — “manufacturing knowledge” will earn long-term competitive advantages well into the 21st century. As that manufacturing intelligence grows into knowledge, it will inspire innovations in processes and products that comprise smart manufacturing’s great promise — a major market disruption such as a $3,000 automobile or a $300 personal computer

Smart manufacturing’s third phase will transform industry in a similar way to how the strategic use of information technology transformed the business model — and consumer shopping behavior — at Amazon began 15 years ago as an online bookseller. By capturing extensive data about consumers’ book-buying habits, Amazon developed extensive knowledge about its customers’ lifestyles that enabled a “disruptive” shift in its business model. Within a decade, Amazon expanded its product offerings to span many new categories. It is now the largest U.S.-based online retailer. Books and other media represent only 52 percent of its $24 billion dollar net sales. As anyone who has ordered from Amazon knows, its Web site will suggest products you might like and tell you what other consumers bought when they considered a product you are viewing. In short, Amazon makes smart use of its industry knowledge to bolster its competitive advantage.

Smart manufacturing will deliver a similar, extraordinary shift in the competitive landscape of American industry. It will reverse the flow of the 100-year-old industrial supply chains that forced consumers to accept whatever was mass produced. Flexible factories and demand-driven supply chains will change manufacturing processes to allow manufacturers to customize products to individual needs, such as medications with specific dosages and formulations. Customers will “tell” a factory what car to manufacture, what features to build into a personal computer or how to tailor a pair of jeans for a perfect fit.

This most dramatic — and competitively vital — third phase of implementing smart manufacturing will come from innovation spurred by this growing body of manufacturing knowledge. These will not be incremental or gradual changes — they will be game- changing, market-disruptive innovations in products and processes. Changes at this phase will push down prices, open new markets and offer a broader array of choices to a wider range of middle class consumers.

This comes at an incredibly unique period in the history of human civilization.  According to a McKinsey report on global forces, the global middle class will double to be roughly 40 percent of the world’s population and will generate $8 trillion in consumer spending power by the end of the decade.  This will accelerate demand for cars, packaged goods and personal care products in places like China, India and Latin America.  Smart Manufacturing is ideally suited to support this rapid surge in global consumer products production.