"Smart Manufacturing is the intelligent, real-time orchestration and optimization of business, physical and digital processes within factories and across the entire value chain. Resources and processes are automated, integrated, monitored and continuously evaluated based on all available information as close to real-time as possible."

                                                                                              -MESA Smart Manufacturing Working Group

Join MESA's Smart Manufacturing Community -- Learn more.


 What is Smart Manufacturing?

 Article: The Smart Manufacturing Elevator Pitch, Literally!

 Breaking down the elements of this definition in 3 minutes.

 "Smart Manufacturing is the intelligent, real-time orchestration and optimization of business, physical and digital  processes within factories and across the entire value chain."


Research Report: Seeking Common Ground for Smart Manufacturing

In these early days of Smart Manufacturing, there is plenty we can learn from each other. This report of on-line survey results from 384 manufacturing respondents is just the beginning of exploring common ground, in an effort to move forward more rapidly as an industry. Manufacturers are expecting significant benefits from their Smart Manufacturing initiatives; some are familiar, others are more ground-breaking. While many have their own name for it, many see the concepts converging on Smart Manufacturing. This survey explores areas of agreement and divergence in current initiatives and shows that manufacturers are leveraging a wide array of technologies and approaches for their Smart Manufacturing projects.

White Paper 52: "Smart Manufacturing - The Landscape Explained" 

This paper discusses the drivers, goals, opportunities and challenges related to the Smart Manufacturing roadmap for manufacturers. The paper also discusses initiatives by multiple organizations that bring together manufacturers, technologies and information systems, organizations like MESA (Manufacturing Enterprise Systems Association), the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), Industrie 4.0, and the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC), are working on initiatives to coordinate the convergence of technologies and realize the process improvement potential sooner rather than later.

Member Only White Paper:

Public Excerpt from White Paper:

White Paper 59: Three Functional Dimensions Converge On Smart Manufacturing

There are a myriad of new technologies coming into the manufacturing arena, each with attractive value propositions. How does an organization navigate the complexity of different organizational perspectives, data models and business processes that converge at manufacturing operations? This paper discusses how to organize the convergence of processes supporting Smart Manufacturing into three dimensions: smart factory, digital thread and value chain management. These different dimensions relate to different perspectives and systems coming from engineering, operations and business management disciplines, and help explain why the Smart Manufacturing endeavor requires collaboration among many different stakeholders in the organization.


Article: What is C-Suite Executives Need to Know About Smart Manufacturing

C-suite executives tend to delegate manufacturing strategy to the manufacturing experts and IT strategy to the technology experts. Historically, that was a good strategy. Now, with the emergence of new technologies that collectively comprise what's known as smart manufacturing or " Industrie 4.0," it's time for C-suite executives to reconsider their hands-off approach.

Webcast: Smart Manufacturing: Continuous Improvement or Strategic Transformation? 

Are organizations tackling Smart Manufacturing as an extension of Lean and Six Sigma continuous improvements or are they establishing a strategic business transformation initiative? A survey conducted by IndustryWeek and MESA International uncovered that many manufacturers are getting started on the journey to Smart Manufacturing but they are taking different paths to get there. Our four panelists are no exception. What are the views of their organizations? Discussion topics include: Drivers to jump on the Smart Manufacturing transformation, tips on driving the transformation required, and pitfalls to avoid along the journey.[CL1] 

Article: The Problems Smart Manufacturing Solves for The C-Suite 

Smart Manufacturing is really about running -- and growing -- the business. These Technologies are vital to achieving the strategic objectives of the business, including improving customer service, achieving operational efficiencies, innovating for the future, reducing risk, meeting standards and regulations, and improving company management.


Presentation: MESA early discussions on Smart Manufacturinglooklikesm.jpg

Take a peak of some of the ideas discussed on aspirations for the future of the connected manufacturing value chain. The consensus in this session was that lack of investment capital is not a major barrier. So... what are the real barriers?

Article: What is "Smart" about Smart Manufacturing

The article explains the goals and characteristics of projects that pursue a Smart Manufacturing future. Like Lean Manufacturing defined goals to eliminate waste, Smart Manufacturing sets goals for new levels of connectivity and orchestration in the entire manufacturing ecosystem.


 journeysm.jpgRecorded Presentation: "Smart Manufacturing - The Journey Ahead" 

 Here's a roadmap for manufacturers on how to get started on the journey to Smart Manufacturing.

  1. Review Business Structure for Future Market Strategy
  2. Establish Evolution Milestones for the Journey
  3. Nurture New Culture around New Vision 
  4. Build Partnerships to Support the New Vision
  5. Address Skills Gap for Knowledge Workers
  6. Evolve the Information Technology Infrastructure

Presentation link:

Recorded Panel Discussion:Tips on Starting the Smart Manufacturing Journey - From Workshop Discussions at the MESA Conference

 Topics discussed by the panel will include:

  • Drivers, priorities, and corporate alignment
  • IT versus OT/Automation leadership
  • Experimentation and implementation approaches
  • Build vs buy, and single vs multi-vendor decisions

Article: How to Achieve Smart Manufacturing

The goals for a Smart Manufacturing infrastructure are set and the enabling building blocks are discussed including the need for adoption of standards for M2M, A2A, and B2B communications that allow secure Internet and cloud services connectivity, and new skills for the workforce that is going to establish and maintain these new infrastructures and business strategies.

MESA White Paper #58: The Importance of Standards in Smart Manufacturing

We are now counting on the evolution of standards to pave the infrastructure required for Smart Manufacturing and the realization of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Besides efficiency, speed and cost reduction, the benefits of data exchange standards include architecture flexibility, ubiquitous data access, and higher levels of security.

White Paper (open to non-members)


Get involved in the MESA Smart Manufacturing Working Group 

Smart Manufacturing won't happen without people exchanging ideas and collaborating across the operations, automation and information technology ranks.  They're not simple discussions, but we're the right people to drive them, and we encourage you to join us.


Article: Five Hurdles to Smart Manufacturing hurdlessm.jpg

The implementation of Smart Manufacturing information technology frameworks and applications will be essential to achieving the goals but obstacles to delivering the vision include: 

1. Data contextualization

2. Underfunded and overwhelmed IT: 

3. Change Management practices

4. Legacy IT and OT separation

5. Disparate silo systems

Article: "Smart Manufacturing Isn't So Smart Without Standards"

Communications and messaging standards spur the adoption of new technologies, products and manufacturing methods. Standards allow a more dynamic and competitive marketplace, without hampering the opportunity to differentiate. Development of standards reduces the risks for enterprises developing and implementing solutions to accelerate adoption of new manufactured products and manufacturing methods. Several contributors from NIST (National Institute of Standards) give us a summary of the state of standards needed to support Smart Manufacturing initiatives.

Article: "The State of MES in the Age of Smart Manufacturing"

MES continues to evolve to address the challenge of more real-time data, integration and automation. Auto-ID technologies, cloud computing, mobile, augmented reality, and advanced analytics are all being integrated into MES. For these manufacturers, MES has become a foundational element of Smart Manufacturing enabling enhanced digital thread, cost analysis, repeatable processes, and assisted decision making. The state of MES is better than it has ever been, and the next 20 years are going to be spectacular.

MESA White Paper #60: Smart Manufacturing and Cloud Computing

This paper explores how Cloud Computing can help achieve the Smart Manufacturing goals to optimize processes inside the factory, as well as across the supply chain, whether the manufacturer wants to embrace a full or hybrid cloud infrastructure model. This paper includes examples of different options, from performing analysis via cloud services, to putting enterprise systems that are not closely attached to machine processes on the cloud, like inventory management. Each example exercises different infrastructure and security techniques. Different types of cloud services are available to leverage into a Smart Manufacturing strategy and each organization will leverage them in different ways and in different stages of their journey.

Article: "The Value of MES to Your Smart Manufacturing Transformation"

This article discusses how MES fits into the Smart Manufacturing journey as a foundational enterprise system, along with PLM and ERP, integrated into one digital thread and one system of systems. 
Benefits achieved with MES within Smart Manufacturing and the Digital Thread include:
1. Automatic data collection
2. Repeatability
3. Control
4. Digitized records
5. Making better-informed decisions

Article: "How 'Smart' are We in Manufacturing Today?"

A prior article discussed that Smart Manufacturing is not very "smart" if not using communication standards to connect equipment, people and processes in the manufacturing enterprise. This article discusses the reality of adoption of integration standards in manufacturing based on a MESA and IDC Manufacturing Insights survey. The survey was sent to both manufacturers and vendors that provide equipment and software to manufacturing, and the results are shared below.


Article: "A Checklist for Cybersecurity in Industrial Internet of Things"

To realize the vision of Smart Manufacturing and Industrial IoT (IIoT) organizations recognize that information created by connecting industrial control systems to the enterprise business systems is achieving greater visibility into their operations, all helping to make significant operational improvements.  These initiatives require seamless and secure flow of information from the machines and equipment, to the lines, to the people, to the plants, and to the enterprise levels.  This article discusses the challenges and approaches being worked by several industry consortia groups to tackle this convergence and connected enterprise.


Article: "Why and How to Use Production Process Management in Smart Manufacturing"

Business processes in today's typical manufacturing environment is, at best, full of information gaps.  Within the major enterprise level systems such as ERP or PLM most processes are based or focused on departmental issues which means the processes are not cross-functional. Business Process Management (BPM) and workflow solutions are a missing link to support Smart Manufacturing across the enterprise.


Case Studies: Check out any of MESA's Smart Story Awards entries to learn how IT solutions and data can be used to make smart decisions throughout a product value chain.