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Years after the inaugural event in Tulip’s backyard in Boston, the Smart Manufacturing Experience returned in the flesh to showcase a small but mighty slice of the industry. This year, the show focused on workforce upskilling, quality improvement, and the future of manufacturing–fitting topics given the recent ups and downs, disruptions, and workforce shake-up in the industry. Once again, the Tulip team presented both its technology (Tulip’s Frontline Operations Platform) and its thought leadership through a range of different speaking sessions and presentations. From the demonstration stations to the presentation stage and knowledge bar, we had the opportunity to meet some of the smartest and most interesting people in the industry and shared our knowledge through vibrant conversations.

SMX offered a who’s who of influential companies and people, which drove home key points about where things stand today.

First, the level of discourse is clearly rising around digital technology in industrial and factory environments. Connectivity to people, software, and equipment is expected across the board, even as the limitations of legacy machinery are universally acknowledged and appreciated. On top of that growing connectivity layer is a rapidly maturing data transport and management layer, and together these foundations are enabling a huge proliferation in specific, user-facing tools.

Second, there are now plentiful, well-documented, and widely-cited real world examples for every major segment of smart manufacturing technology. It is difficult to be taken seriously in the space as either a manufacturer or a vendor if you can’t bring concrete use cases with real demonstrated value. This is a significant advance in expectations from just a few years ago.

Finally, the near-panic over cybersecurity for physical equipment has yet to resolve, but it has morphed into more pragmatic discussions. What used to be vague, poorly defined, and ill-informed concerns over “hacking” have been mostly supplanted by discussion of risk measurement, management, and mitigation. Most of those in attendance live in the near-future, and the dialog has clearly moved past generalized digital skepticism. In its place is resignation and fresh skepticism of emerging approaches and solutions.

These three points summarized perfectly the speaking sessions that Tulip brought to the event. Together, the sessions painted our vision of the future of manufacturing where humans are augmented, not replaced, by technology, which fuels sustainable digital transformation and a high level of built-in resilience and agility.

Gilad's presentation, titled "Empowering the Augmented Worker in a Connected Factory"
Russ Waddell's knowledge bar session, "Why It's (Finally?) Time for Industrial Operations Platform"
Madi's knowledge bar session, titled "Why Upskilling and Digital Augmentation are Key to Winning the War for Talent"

Event attendees could experience this vision right on the showfloor with the interactive demos of Tulip’s Frontline Operations Platform. The demos illustrated how technology helps guide the operators through the assembly process and assist with defect detection, quality inspection and more in order to minimize errors and maximize quality and efficiency. This experience is a showcase of human-centric technologies that can target operators’ pain points and augment their abilities, creating a more agile and resilient workforce.

Tulip's Frontline Operations Platform demos at Tulip

Tulip no doubt arrived among peers at the Smart Manufacturing Experience. Its customers and partners in attendance were setting the standard of excellence in industrial operations, while everyone involved was setting the tone for where smart manufacturing, digital factory, and industry 4.0 will be in the not-too-distant future.

Russ Waddell joined Tulip as Community Lead in 2022 after working for AMT - The Association For Manufacturing Technology since 2007. He most recently managed the MTConnect Institute, a standard development organization for machine-to-machine communication in discrete manufacturing. He previously was an Industry Economist at AMT and holds a BA in Economics from The College of William and Mary.