Arconic-MIT Smart Manufacturing Leadership Education Program Boosts Operational-Technical Productivity in Factories

Sharing of knowledge in a collaborative, hands-on environment is a hallmark of MIT’s “Mind and Hand” educational philosophy. The value of this approach was recently demonstrated by a team of School of Engineering faculty and grad students, who created a program in Smart Manufacturing for about three dozen operations and factory managers from lightweight metals giant Arconic.

The MIT Smart Manufacturing Leadership Program, developed in collaboration with MIT Professional Education, featured several webinars and a pair of four-day on-campus sessions. In addition to classroom training, the program provided hands-on practice with a custom tabletop fiber extrusion system, and a data-rich manufacturing-education hardware kit.

MIT’s faculty director of the program was Brian W. Anthony, Director of Programs and Outreach for MIT.nano and a principal research scientist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. He and his students have worked on the development of manufacturing-related educational methods, materials, and machines. “Arconic had many people with diverse education and experience, as well as deep expertise in individual areas, but wanted to develop their skills in connecting the full technology stack required to realize a Smart Manufacturing Enterprise. So, MIT’s job was to provide a common technical language and technological framework to think about, model, and deploy Smart Manufacturing, both broadly and in the context of their business, and help support their plan for doing a lot of internal mentoring,” explains Anthony.

“The class really tied the Smart Manufacturing structure together, starting with sensors, building to hardware systems and data analytics, and making connections into the overall framework,” said Leslie Suffredini, an engineer who serves as operations manager at Arconic Engineered Structures in Cleveland. “We got a better understanding of what’s needed for our facility and our business, and what it will take to implement Smart Manufacturing effectively. We just put up our first data visualization board; before only engineers would see that data, now everyone is looking at it.”

Plans call for additional groups of Arconic manufacturing leaders to go through the course as the company pursues its strategy of deploying Smart Manufacturing as a foundation for using information and intelligence on the factory floor to maximize operational efficiency.