KC SmartPort Briefing Examines Industry 4.0

KC SmartPort held its seventh annual industry briefing featuring a panel of manufacturing industry leaders discussing how the rapidly changing field is moving toward automation, with big data facilitating breakthroughs in process improvement.


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KC SmartPort Industry Briefing


Earlier this month, KC SmartPort held its seventh annual industry briefing in Kansas City, Missouri. This edition, titled Digitize, featured a panel of industry leaders from manufacturing companies including Honeywell, Mars Wrigley Confectionary U.S., Kawasaki Motors, and Magna International, a mobility technology company and one of the world's largest automotive suppliers. The panel addressed a crowd of more than 550 attendees, discussing how the rapidly changing field is moving towards automation, with big data facilitating great leaps in process improvement.

Chris Gutierrez, president of KC SmartPort says, “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.”

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-fot 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,” Mr. Tobin says. “There are a lot of great opportunities in automotive. 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 included Bret Spangler, site director, Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S., which operates a 500,000-square-foot, $270 million plant in Topeka, Kansas; Steve Bratt, chief strategic advisor, Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp., a Japanese-based company with a small engine manufacturing plant in Maryville, Missouri; and John Ricciardelli, president of Honeywell Federal Manufacturing and Technologies, which manages the National Nuclear Security Administration facility in Kansas City.

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

“As manufacturing innovation continues, we must ensure our employees are trained to keep up with innovations and technology advancements,” says Mr. Ricciardelli. “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.”

KC SmartPort is actively involved in driving thought leadership around supply chain issues such as those related to innovation and technology.