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From the classroom to the working world—the Smart Factory Experience

Aug. 10, 2021
The program demonstrates how manufacturers can embrace the next level of technological innovation.

Deloitte and Wichita State University (WSU) are helping companies accelerate their digital transformations with their new immersive smart factory experiences, demonstrating how manufacturers can embrace the next level of technological innovation. We wanted to learn more, so we connected with Stephen Laaper, principal and Smart Factory leader at Deloitte

Take a look…

Smart Industry: Describe these smart factory experiences?  

Stephen: Deloitte, along with our smart factory ecosystem, are building several facilities across the globe, with our flagship location being in Wichita, Kansas. While the scale is different in each of the regions, they all focus on helping manufacturers understand the benefits of smart factories and how to get started. Specifically, the Smart Factory @ Wichita is the living embodiment of manufacturing excellence, bringing together a world-renowned team of business leaders, solution providers, technology innovators, academic researchers, and futurists to showcase how a smart factory can transform an entire enterprise. 

Smart Industry: What emerging technologies are used with this Smart Factory program?

Stephen: Almost every aspect of the manufacturing process can improve with these technologies, from ensuring that products are produced with the highest quality, while at the same time decreasing the overall time and cost to make them. Additionally, Smart Factory initiatives can also increase revenues through different business models and personalization. This intersection of abundant value and technology “complexity” leads to critical key decisions on where to get started for most manufacturers. To aid in this effort, our Smart Factory team helps frame smart factory technology advancement areas in context of the “Great 8” use cases (ranging from factory asset intelligence to energy management) combined with a scaled approach that charts short-term and long-term payback. It’s also vital to highlight the importance of the human element in addition to these technology powered capabilities. By combining the strengths of the human workforce with machines and platforms, manufacturers can achieve exponential improvements in customer service, output, and productivity.

Smart Industry: How are smart factory technologies a leading driver of competitiveness and efficiency today? 

Stephen: Smart factories can keep evolving by being more in sync with the end client and their needs as well as working their way backwards with supporting data and automated decisions at each step. This allows manufacturers and the broader supply chain to deliver products at a lower cost, with the right features and quality. 

Smart Industry: What impact did / does the pandemic have on this initiative?

Stephen: As you might imagine, the pandemic has created a number of disruptions, from construction delays due to workforce changes, material shortages, and elongation of the supply chain for nearly everything. At the same time, we have embraced new ways of working [i.e. virtually] and how we will engage in tours of our Smart Factory. We shifted our tours to a virtual presence in the height of the pandemic and have added enhanced support, with immersive cameras and feedback for remote participation to support hybrid tours in the future.  

Smart Industry: What is a next evolution of the smart factory that excites you? 

Stephen: We believe that anything is possible, and we lead with purpose, keeping our core principles—Community, Sustainability, Philanthropy and Experience in mind. With those principles, we are bringing together a diverse set of minds to work together in a way that the industry does not typically get to experience in a “hands-on” kind of way.