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The Interdisciplinary Center for Advanced Manufacturing Systems (ICAMS) at Auburn University has received a $4.26 million award from the U.S. Department of Defense to explore the digitalization of manufacturing and become a resource for small and medium manufacturers throughout the country.
"The most significant way ICAMS can make a difference is in helping small and medium manufacturers understand the technologies they should be utilizing and helping them understand the need for adopting Industry 4.0/Smart Manufacturing concepts, therefore really digitalizing the full supply chain," said Gregory Harris, ICAMS director and associate professor of industrial and systems engineering.
There is a growing digital divide between large manufacturers and the small- to medium-sized manufacturers that make up 85% of the industrial base in the United States. These large, original equipment manufacturers have blended their manufacturing physical and virtual domains into an Industry 4.0 environment, achieving positive productivity results. ICAMS researchers hope to help close this gap, in part by promoting advanced manufacturing principles to create a skilled workforce pipeline that starts in high school and continues through community college and beyond.
"The ideal student coming into this program is somebody who is a cross between a mechanical engineer, an industrial and systems engineer and a computer scientist. It's a very interdisciplinary environment where if you're interested in computers and making things and realizing innovations, you will thrive. That's the kind of student we're looking for," Harris said.
ICAMS is led by Harris and several additional faculty members from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering: assistant professor Peter Liu, assistant professor Konstantinos Mykoniatis, associate professor Lewis Payton and assistant professor Gregory Purdy. The center is also supported through a partnership with the City of Auburn's Industrial Development Board, which has provided a facility to house large equipment and provide a hands-on learning laboratory for ICAMS students.
"Part of what we're doing with ICAMS is helping develop the skill base and the skill sets needed so that the community college system and high schools can train students in the new technologies to be potential employees," he explained. "We're working with industry to train their current employees in these new capabilities and create a more effective system. Finally, we're training engineers to be able to go out and help design, build and run these systems, thus ushering in the future of manufacturing."