Smart Factory Institute moves to Bradley County PIE Innovation Center

May 17, 2022
Collaboration aims to build workforce pipeline through STEM-focused programs, advanced manufacturing training, demonstrations and events.

The Smart Factory Institute of Tennessee, in a new partnership with the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce and Bradley County Schools, announced it is moving its headquarters to the Bradley County Partnerships in Industry & Education (PIE) Innovation Center located in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Formerly the site of American Uniform Co. mill and factory, the 256,100-square-foot complex—now the site of the “PIE Center”—was recently revamped into a $33 million vocational-training and business facility after gaining support from a coalition of greater Chattanooga area businesses, along with federal, state and local governments.

“Throughout the past year, our incredible community, sponsors, and technology partners have shown extraordinary enthusiasm for our Industry 4.0 workforce and advanced manufacturing programs—at a level we could not have imagined when we first launched the nation’s first Deutsche Messe Technology Academy right here in Chattanooga,” said Denise Rice, president and CEO of Peak Performance, Inc., which operates the Smart Factory Institute. “As a result, we’re thrilled to be expanding our operations in the greater Chattanooga area and moving into a larger space that allows us to grow and increase our offerings while continuing to work closely with our friends at Volkswagen.”

The Smart Factory Institute will occupy a 9,000 square-foot space within the PIE Center and will continue to provide training and workforce-development programs to support manufacturing and adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies while partnering with businesses, government agencies, educational institutions, and other professional organizations. The space will be available to showcase and demonstrate new technologies that will support economic development, draw industry to the region, and expand existing industry by promoting advanced manufacturing, they state.

“We are so pleased with the exceptional growth of the Smart Factory Institute of Tennessee, and we look forward to what this new facility brings for our team. Chattanooga and its surrounding region have once again demonstrated a brilliant ability to stoke innovation and collaboration within the US manufacturing industry,” said Thomas Rilke, director of the Deutsche Messe Technology Academy.

The PIE Center is centrally located to serve students and community members from Bradley, Meigs, and Polk counties. It offers space to house 38 tenants, including the local UT Extension Service, a counseling center, McKee Foods, Wright Brothers Construction, the Center for Sports Medicine, and Cleveland State Community College.

“Our proximity to some of the region’s most prominent economic drivers and educational institutions will enable meaningful collaborations, further advancing the Smart Factory Institute’s mission of making Industry 4.0 advanced technologies available to everyone,” said Mary Beth Hudson, executive director of the Smart Factory Institute.

With an aim to facilitate better links between schools and businesses, the PIE Center offers work-based learning experiences, certifications, and other apprenticeship programs. It has been praised by local, statewide, and federal Tennessee officials as a model for training and recruiting skilled workers for the many technical, high-demand jobs of the future, and as an investment that is vitally needed to make Tennessee’s rural areas highly competitive.

“Bradley County welcomes the Smart Factory Institute to our unprecedented innovative center—the first of its kind in Tennessee," said Dr. Linda Cash, director of Bradley County Schools. “Our partnership will provide Bradley County and area students with STEM-focused educational programs, embedded work-based learning experiences, and design thinking skills in order to help address the growing need to better prepare students for postsecondary careers and workforce opportunities.”

The Smart Factory Institute in August will host the PIE Center’s inaugural event, the Smart Solutions for Smart Factories Expo. The Expo will feature leading manufacturing and technology vendors demonstrating smart solutions that improve productivity, quality, reliability, and responsiveness in a factory production environment. 

“We are proud of the tremendous growth of the Smart Factory Institute that embeds Tennessee as one of the top states in the nation for advanced manufacturing. This new collaboration with Bradley County Schools and the PIE Center will further position Tennessee and the US southeast region as a true leader for advanced manufacturing technology. We are extremely grateful for the support from the Tennessee General Assembly and specifically the leadership of the Hamilton and Bradley County legislative delegations for their work to make this a reality, and we look forward to exciting new developments at the Institute,” said Bradley Jackson, president of the Tennessee Manufacturers Association.