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February 26, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Automation, maintenance, reliability discussed at Cleveland engineering summit

The Smart Factory Institute's Automation, Maintenance, and Reliability Summit gave a strong finish to Chattanooga Engineers Week.

When you put a few dozen engineers in a room together, there are some things you notice immediately.

They’re most likely wearing some shade of blue, they’re probably drinking coffee, and there’s a lot of knowledge over several engineering fields that they’re excited to share.

That painted picture came to life at the Smart Factory Institute’s Automation, Maintenance, and Reliability Summit.

“Technology is changing and it’s changing at a rapid pace,” said Denise Rice, President and CEO of Peak Performance Inc., which operates the Smart Factory Institute. “There are people here that can help these manufacturers really pick the right technology and be able to make it successful in their facilities.”

About 50 industry professionals gathered at the PIE Center in Cleveland, TN, on Friday to discuss and learn how to improve maintenance and reliability processes in industrial production settings through Industry 4.0 technologies. Rice said the four categories they focused on included artificial and data-driven intelligence, machine learning, advanced connectivity, and robotics.

She gave real-world examples of each of those categories. We used advanced connectivity when plugging our phones into our cars. Data-driven intelligence can be seen when Amazon recommends products for you based on your past searches. Machine learning and machine-human partnerships happen every time you turn on a Roomba vacuum. And advanced production methods can be seen with the use of additive manufacturing, like 3D printing.

Manufacturing industry professionals attend the Smart Factory Institute’s Automation, Maintenance, & Reliability Summit.

“There are a lot of buzzwords out there and we’re trying to boil it down to be something really simple,” said Rice. Simple, but related to the manufacturing world.

A big topic of the summit was preventative maintenance.

“We want to predict failures before they happen and prevent them,” featured speaker Derek Kozlowski said in his presentation. Kozlowski is the Senior Engineering Manager of Asset Reliability Excellence at WACKER, a Cleveland-based chemical products company specializing in silicon-based products.

Kozlowski spoke on the importance of asset performance management, which he described as “looking at all your components and saying, ‘when is it going to wear out?’ If it’s critical, you fix it before it wears out. It’s really about preventing problems ahead of time and how well you’re doing it.”

Other speakers, panel discussions, and presentations included representatives from TVA, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Snap-on Tools, Piedmont National, igus, Phoenix Contact, and more.

“The problems are the same, but the processes, products, or the community is different. But we have a lot in common that we share,” said Rice. “So being able to talk through, ‘hey, this worked for me for this situation,’ I think is really valuable.”

The summit wrapped up Chattanooga Engineers Week, which coincided with National Engineers Week.

The Smart Factory Institute is a business-driven effort guided by the Tennessee Manufacturers Association driving innovation and technology in Tennessee and the southeastern United States. The Institute, operated by Peak Performance, is an exclusive U.S. institute providing manufacturers with connections, collaborative relationships, and certifications for improving manufacturing processes by providing them with access to the latest technology in advanced manufacturing.

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