SmartPort 2018

Industries collide to discuss ‘Manufacturing 4.0’

A panel of leaders from manufacturing companies including Honeywell, Mars Wrigley Confectionary U.S., Kawasaki Motors and Magna International discussed the future of manufacturing April 4 at the KC SmartPort’s 2018 Annual Industry Briefing.

The panel addressed a crowd of more than 550 logistics, real estate and economic development professionals on hand in Kansas City, Mo. KC SmartPort is a non-profit economic development organization that works to attract freight-based companies, such as manufacturing, distribution and warehouses, to the 18 county, bi-state Kansas City region. The company also works regularly to address supply chain issues like those related to innovation and technology.

Chris Gutierrez, president of KC SmartPort said, “Manufacturing is a $40.5 billion industry in the KC region employing more than 77,000 people, and our market is second in the nation for completed industrial construction projects. Companies in our region are disrupting the way things are made and having a significant impact on our global economy. We were honored to showcase that through our discussion.”

Speakers analyzed the latest international development in manufacturing technology, called ‘Manufacturing 4.0’, which includes digitization, automation, shifts in customer demand and employee demographics, and robotics.

James Tobin, president of Magna Asia, a division of Magna International, was the keynote speaker at the event. His company operates a 469,600 square-foot LMV automotive manufacturing plant in the KC region with 670 employees. His speech described the advances in automobile manufacturing.

“An automobile is one of the most complex and high-tech products in the world. There are ten times more lines of code in today’s automobile than there was in the space shuttle.” Tobin added, “There are a lot of great opportunities in automotive for people. We have to continue to talk about and work together to develop our people and help them gain the skills they need to succeed both today and in the future.”

Other panelists Bret Spangler, site director, Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S., which operates a 500,000 square-foot, $270 million plant in Topeka, KS; Steve Bratt, chief strategic advisor, Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp, a Japanese-based company with a small engine manufacturing plant in Maryville, MO.; and John Ricciarelli, president of Honeywell, which manages the National Nuclear Security Administration facility in Kansas City, MO.

A broad list of topics was covered including job access, workforce development and the persistent interest gap among young people who don’t consider manufacturing as a career path.

“As manufacturing innovation continues, we must ensure our employees are trained to keep up with innovations and technology advancements,” said John Ricciardelli, president, Honeywell. “Most of the education focus has been directed at filling the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) pipeline with engineers. However, we see a bright future for students choosing trade skills as well.”

In addition, data management, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence are all impacting the efficiency and growth of manufacturing around the world.

“At Kawasaki we are seeing a big demand for future products for lawn and garden. Most of our product is sold to the commercial side … big landscapers that have 20 or 30 people [working for them] so they are asking for more feedback from the mower … so they can manage a lot more from the office. [Our customers] want more technology, more interface, more cloud information so it’s just going to keep growing,” said Steve Bratt, chief strategic advisor, Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp.

Manufacturers are often drawn the Kansas City area because of the region’s competitive transportation costs, reduced production expenses, skilled workforce and central U.S. location. Manufacturers in the region include General Motors, Procter & Gamble, ACI Plastics and ACH Foam Technologies among others. Last month, automotive technology company Faurecia announced its plans to build a new $60 million, 250,000-square-foot interiors production facility that will employ 300.
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