May 16, 2020

IndustryWeek reveals North America’s best manufacturing facilities

Smart Manufacturing
Smart Manufacturing
Catherine Sturman
3 min
North America manufacturing
Leading manufacturing publication, IndustryWeek has revealed the best manufacturing facilities across North America.

In its 29th year, The Best Plants...

Leading manufacturing publication, IndustryWeek has revealed the best manufacturing facilities across North America.

In its 29th year, The Best Plants Awards programme seeks to recognise those who are utilising cutting edge technologies, increased competitiveness, rewarding environemnts and guaranteed customer satisfaction. Additionally, a further goal of the list is to encourage other manufacturing managers and work teams to emulate the honourees by adopting world-class practices, technologies, and improvement strategies.

We take a look at the six plants recognised for going above and beyond within the manufacturing sector.

1. Adient 

Facility location:  West Point, Georgia

Automotive parts manufacturer Adient was originally established in Dublin, Ireland but has since expanded internationally. Partnering with Boeing in 2018 to manufacturer airline seats, the company continues to expand its global presence, where one in three automotive seats worldwide are now manufactured by the juggernaut.

Its mission to “be the world-class automotive seating supplier through leadership in cost, quality, launch execution and customer satisfaction,” will see the business leverage new trends and cater to the global demands for lighter, more sustainable products, fully sharpening its focus on innovation across its products and services. – in automotive seating and beyond.

2. Applied Technical Services (ATS), Washington Operations 

Facility location: Everett, Washington

A consulting engineerting firm with a diverse portfolio, spanning manufacturing, automotive, chemical and construction, ATS is renowned for its strong reputation, quality products and commitment to delivering exceptional customer service.

3. Intertape Polymer Group

Facility location: Blythewood, South Carolina

With 23 plants across North America, Intertape Polymer Group remains a key leader in supporting manufacturers and retailers in essential packaging products and services. Not only that, the company is also at the forefront of the coated fabrics industry, where its products have been designed to support the growing aerospace and automotive industries.


4. Johnson Controls

Facility location: Norman, Oklahoma

Throughout the production of automotive parts, Johnson Controls is on its 2025 Sustainability journey, and has sought to reduce its GHG emissions by more than 40% across its 2,000 global locaitons.

5. The Raymond Corporation

Facility location: Greene, New York

In this business for close to 100 years, The Raymond Corporation has been a key figure in the manufacturing and construction industries. Providing essential technologies, products and solutions, the company has more than 100 locations across North America, and has built a strong network to cater to the growing needs of its customers.

6. T&S Brass and Bronze Works Inc.

Facility location: Travelers Rest, South Carolina

A Leading manufacturer across the industrial, commercial plumbing and laboratory markets, T&S Brass and Bronze Works has continued to drive increased levels of customer satisfaction whilst expanding its global presence across Europe, the US and Canada, southeast Asia and Australia.

A member of the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the company will continue to look for more sustainable ways to design and construct new buildings and retrofit xisting ones, in roder to provide a mutltiude of benefits to both customers and the environment.

The 2018 winners will be honoured during an awards ceremony at the 2019 Manufacturing & Technology 2019, an IndustryWeek event set to be held on April 1-3, 2019 in Pittsburgh, PA.

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May 11, 2021

5 Minutes With PwC on AI and Big Data in Manufacturing

Georgia Wilson
6 min
PwC | Smart Manufacturing | Artificial Intelligence (AI) | Big Data | Analytics | Technology | Digital Factory | Connected Factory | Digital Transfromation
Manufacturing Global speaks to PwC on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data in Manufacturing...

Please could you define what artificial intelligence is, and what Big Data is?

AI is the ability of a machine to perceive its environment and perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, and it’s a whole field of different technologies, techniques and applications. 

Big data is a set of tools and capabilities for working with, for processing, extremely large sets of data. 

How does AI and Big Data work together?

Big data is just one of the enablers of AI, though as we see increasing volumes of data, it’s one of the most important 

How can this be applied to a manufacturing setting?

Broadly speaking, there are many benefits of AI, and the use of data, which include reducing costs, minimising human error, and increasing productivity and efficiency. The important thing to consider is any setting - for the use of any technology - is what is the problem you are trying to solve? Be it merely automating repetitive tasks or to reinventing the nature of work in factories by having humans and machines collaborate in order to make better and faster decisions.  

Why should manufacturers use AI and Big Data when adopting smart manufacturing capabilities, what is the value for manufacturers?

One view is, again, the economic benefits of AI, which come in manufacturing as a result of: 

1. Productivity gains from automating processes and augmenting the work of existing labour forces with various applications of AI technologies. 

2. Increased consumer demand due to the increased ability to personalise and tailor manufactured products, along with higher-quality digital and AI-enhanced products and services. 

Manufacturing (and construction industries) are by nature capital intensive, and in our 2018 report, “The potential impact of AI in the Middle East,” we estimated that the adoption of AI applications could increase the sectors’ contribution to GDP gains by more than 12.4% by 2030. 

How can AI and Big Data help manufacturers to evolve in the Industry 4.0 revolution? What about those already looking at Industry 5.0?

It’s really about the investment you make now, in order to futureproof your business. 

We typically see two broad strategies or approaches to the adoption of AI. There are things that we can do immediately, without any recourse to Big Data - which is to adopt technologies we describe as Sensing, those involving computer vision, for example. There are plenty of use cases where these can be used immediately in manufacturing, such as for automatic fault detection. However, there is a longer term play which requires investing in data - getting the right collection mechanisms in place, storage, data governance, Big Data capabilities etc - in order to develop increasingly valuable machine learning driven AI use cases. This is absolutely necessary for long term adoption success. 

What is the best strategy for organisations looking to realise the value of AI and Big Data in manufacturing?  

AI and Big Data are only one part of a successful smart factory. The organisations that lead on AI adoption are those who have already made the most progress in digitising core business processes. In order get ahead in using AI solutions at scale, there are a number of technology investments and organisational decisions to be made, including: 

1. Digitising processes ultimately leads to improved ability to generate data, and in the manufacturing setting - with many 100s of sensors generating 1000s of measurements in real time, the result is Big Data. Data is key to building AI so reliable and accurate data acquisition, management and governance are key. The production line and factories play a critical and direct role in the data-acquisition process. 

2. AI strategy, both long and short term, begins with the use cases, the business applications. Manufacturers need to ask where they want to use AI and gather these use cases together and prioritising projects based on a balance of expected impact and complexity of implementation. 

Of course, in addition to technology and business processes, people are at the heart of any successful technology adoption. AI teams need to be composed not only of data scientists, also data engineers and solution architects to enable their work, data stewards to ensure accuracy, and increasingly so call “Analytics/AI translators” who are able to communicate with business leaders and technology experts. Culture is also key, and manufacturers need to enable a data and AI-driven culture, building trust in data and algorithms by educating their workforce about AI and its capabilities, how best to extract value. It’s not just the positive of course, but also the risks and limitations, as these when encountered without expectations having been set, can significantly impact willingness to invest. 

What are the challenges when it comes to adopting AI and Big Data in manufacturing?

PwC research has shown that one of the major challenges to implementing AI is uncertainty around return on investment (ROI). As I said, there is significant investment required for a long term data and AI strategy to be successful, and expectations around the time to see tangible returns must be set realistically. 

Many companies also struggle with the data side: collecting and supplying the data that an AI system needs to operate, and ensuring that it is accurate. Again, this speaks to the bigger investments required in digitisation. 

Some of the main challenges for manufacturing companies with implementing AI at a scale from our research include:  

  • 40% → Technologies not mature  
  • 40% → Workforce lacks skills to implement and manage AI  
  • 36% → Uncertain of return on investment  
  • 33% → Data is not mature yet 
  • 32% → lack of transparency and trust  
  • 24% → Work councils and labour unions  
  • 22% → Regulatory hurdles in home & important markets  

One element highlighted here, particularly around lack of trust, and labour unions, is that AI is typically misrepresented in the media as “replacing” workers, and taking jobs. Yes, there are efficiency gains to be made from automation, as there have been since the first industrial revolution. But we believe that Data and AI are at their most valuable when they are used to augment workers, enhancing their abilities and the products being manufactured. 

Another challenge we’re starting to see emerge is cyberattacks increasingly targeting interconnected equipment and machinery in smart factories. PwC recently hosted a webcast, in cooperation with the National Association of Manufacturers in the US and Microsoft to discuss this. 

What are the current trends in AI and Big Data in manufacturing?  

  • We see companies putting slightly more focus on adding AI solutions to core production processes such as the engineering, and assembly and quality testing 
  • Safety is of significant importance, with techniques adopted in protocol adherence capabilities (for example maintaining safe distance from specific machinery) being adopted in more every day scenarios for COVID-19 protocol adherence 
  • There is considerable interest in predictive maintenance for large machinery involved in manufacturing processes, and also supply-chain optimisation

What do you see happening in the AI and Big Data industry in manufacturing in the next 12-18 months? 

Honestly, I think we’ll see a continuance of where we’ve already been going for the last 12- 18 months. AI and data are already being used in manufacturing but this use doesn’t get as much attention in the media as, say, healthcare, but the success stories are there, and they will continue as operations continue their digital journeys. 

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