Industry 4.0 Deep Dive Panel explores the future of manufacturing in Iowa

The Iowa Technology Summit returned this week and introduced a brand new track—”Industry 4.0″.

Industry 4.0 is the automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology. Earlier this year, the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and Iowa Innovation Council released the state’s Manufacturing 4.0 plan, a 120-page report commissioned by IEDA and prepared by TEConomy Partners. The report, Seizing the Manufacturing 4.0 Opportunity: A Strategic Plan for Iowa’s Manufacturing Industry, lays out a roadmap to help Iowa manufacturers remain globally competitive through a fourth industrial revolution that emphasizes automation and smart technology.

As part of the Industry 4.0 track was a session titled “Industry 4.0 Deep Dive” where a panel of technology experts discussed Industry 4.0 updates and future-forward ideas regarding the manufacturing industry.

Among the panelists were Debi Durham, Director of the IEDA & Iowa Finance Authority; Hank Norem, President of Ramco Innovations; and Emily Schmitt, Chief Administrative Officer of Sukup Manufacturing. Mike O’Donnell, Associate Director of Ciras at Iowa State University, moderated the panel.

“Industry 4.0 for us is really looking at smart manufacturing and leveraging tools to help us do that,” said Norem. “Robotics, sensors, anything to automate the plant floor. The goal is really to collect data and automate processes so that we can have more intelligent and operational effectiveness going forward for our manufacturers.

Earlier this month, the Iowa State Legislature passed a bill that will create a Manufacturing 4.0 Grant Program to help Iowa manufacturers compete globally and award financial assistance to manufacturers needing support. The grants will be eligible to companies with three to 75 employees that have had a manufacturing facility in Iowa for at least three years and get at least 50 percent of revenue from manufacturing. The maximum amount of financial assistance awarded to a manufacturer will be $75,000.

“We’re requiring anyone that comes in for assistance from this new funding to do an assessment with CIRAS,” said Durham. “Because we need to make sure that what we’re funding actually progress them along this Industry 4.0 journey.”

“It’s important to realize you don’t have to do it all at once. Just taking one step at a time and prioritizing where that biggest bang for your buck will be,” said Schmitt. “And there are many different resources here in Iowa that can help you get there.”

“We always focus on new job creation. We’re going to have to shift that kind of thinking in manufacturing. Its not how many new jobs you’re going to create but, as we adopt these new technologies and make these huge capital investments in our plants, how do we relook at our training dollars in a more robust way,” said Durham.

Previous coverage

Iowa community colleges, CIRAS announce statewide manufacturing technology consortium –May 12, 2021

Governor Reynolds, IEDA announce manufacturing roadmap for Iowa -Feb. 16, 2021