Manufacturing is ubiquitous in modern life. Our computers, our cars and many of the products we use daily are created using advanced manufacturing systems. To meet the future needs of manufacturing in a high-tech world, existing manufacturing systems must evolve and new ones need to emerge.
The School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks, the seventh school in the Fulton Schools of Engineering, will integrate academic programs and innovative research to address current and future challenges, improve sustainability and generate economic opportunities to revitalize manufacturing in Arizona and beyond. And the school will play a significant role in supplying the skilled talent needed to support U.S. efforts to reestablish its leadership in advanced manufacturing.
These factors to enhance ASU’s impact on Industry 4.0The Fourth Industrial Revolution, 4IR or Industry 4.0 conceptualizes rapid change to technology, industries and societal patterns and processes in the 21st century due to increasing interconnectivity and smart automation. (Source: Wikipedia.com) are catalyzed by the growth and transdisciplinary knowledge generation happening in the Fulton Schools of Engineering. As one of the country’s largest and most comprehensive engineering schools, the Fulton Schools of Engineering is well-positioned to lead industry-relevant research and technology innovation in the processes and systems that will drive the future of manufacturing.
“ASU’s record of innovation and leadership in engineering education puts us at the center of a national effort to accelerate advanced manufacturing and, in turn, to substantially improve competitiveness and agile innovation for a myriad of critical industries. This includes semiconductors and microelectronics, two areas we read about essentially every day and are vital to national security,” says Kyle Squires, ASU vice provost for engineering, computing and technology and dean of the Fulton Schools of Engineering. “The School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks is the embodiment of ASU’s commitment to use-inspired research and educating students for a technologically enhanced future of work.”
Preparing students for factories of the future
The School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks is building upon existing manufacturing and systems engineering programs at The Polytechnic School — one of the seven Fulton Schools of Engineering — and strategically centering its curriculum, research portfolio and industry engagements to meet the growing demands of an evolving manufacturing landscape.
“If you look across the country, there are more than 2 million manufacturing jobs that could go unfilled, and this particular school is trying to fill that workforce gap,” says Binil Starly, the inaugural director of the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks.
Starly joins ASU after nine years as a North Carolina State University professor. There, he led the Data Intensive Manufacturing Environment Lab, or DIME, where he merged digital and physical technologies to advance discrete and continuous manufacturing processes.
Associate Professor Dhruv Bhate has a heightened awareness of the looming manufacturing job deficit from his experiences as a faculty member in The Polytechnic School and prior engineering industry roles at Intel Corporation and PADT, Inc.
“As we look forward and imagine the future of manufacturing, we have the opportunity to shape it in a more responsible way to advance humankind like never before,” says Bhate, who now teaches in the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks.
Bhate says that traditionally, when companies hire engineers to fill manufacturing positions, the pool is limited to mechanical engineers, industrial engineers, material scientists or chemical engineers — because they aren’t able to readily find candidates who possess a wide breadth of manufacturing relevant engineering skills.
“Addressing the next generation of manufacturing challenges and opportunities are multi-disciplinary and include process science and engineering, robotics and automation, as well as data analytics, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence,” Bhate says. “These are the areas a manufacturing graduate of the future will be required to have familiarity with when they enter the workforce.”
To address this talent gap, students in the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks will have access to opportunities to develop their skills in modeling, automation, sensing, advancing manufacturing processes, robotics, human-machine teaming, machine learning, data optimization and digital twin systems, among other areas.
Keng Hsu, an associate professor for the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks, believes that “this new approach of combining disciplines will create a manufacturing educational enterprise that is different from most in the country.”
Integrating existing engineering and technology programs on the Polytechnic campus with the new manufacturing-related programs in the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks is enabling a surge of cross-program collaboration that will further contribute to the school’s goal of making strides in the digital manufacturing space.
The Polytechnic campus is already home to the robotics and autonomous systems program, the information technology program and the human systems engineering program, which focuses on how humans engage with new technologies.
The software engineering program, part of the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence — another one of the Fulton Schools of Engineering — is also on the Polytechnic campus. Software engineering, an area Starly says “is driving new manufacturing information technology,” will equip students with the information systems knowledge required to advance artificial intelligence on the factory floor.
“I’m excited because we have everything we need to make an impact right here on the Polytechnic campus,” says Thomas Sugar, a President’s Professor in the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks and the associate dean of Barrett, The Honors College at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.
Sugar looks forward to working with faculty members who are bringing new skill sets to the Fulton Schools of Engineering.
“ASU is investing in professors that are experts in Industry 4.0,” he says. “This is crucial when building an advanced manufacturing ecosystem in Arizona where the Fulton Schools of Engineering will become the largest technical producer of talent in the U.S. The process will eventually become a robust economic engine.”
A group of The Polytechnic School’s faculty will transition to the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks, many of whom have had distinguished industry careers. Of that group, five are recipients of the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award. Many also have solid entrepreneurial roots, holding patents and having launched startup companies to translate their research to use.
“This group of faculty has a strong collaborative nature and they will bring that mindset with them,” says Ann McKenna, vice dean of strategic advancement for the Fulton Schools. “They all enable technology being put to immediate use.”
The School of Manufacturing Systems and Engineering will also play a critical role in ASU’s ongoing effort to strengthen workforce readiness and stimulate economic growth in Arizona. Interested students can conduct research in one of ASU’s five new Science and Technology Centers, or STCs.
These centers, supported partly by Arizona’s New Economy Initiative, represent a strategic collaborative effort by Arizona universities, state government and industry to accelerate talent and skills development in key areas driving industrial growth and strengthening the state’s economic development.
Hsu says that the Manufacturing, Automation and Data Engineering STC — with its focus on creating and optimizing advanced manufacturing technologies — will promote industry-driven manufacturing research and help solve industry-scale technical problems.
“This is a meaningful way of generating data and generating impact,” Hsu says, “and was one of the many reasons I decided to join the new school.”
The presence of new and existing Valley manufacturers investing in next-level technologies is spurring opportunities for ASU and the Arizona workforce.
With plans to begin production in 2024, TSMC, the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, is investing $12 billion in a chip-making plant in North Phoenix. Intel Corporation and NXP Semiconductors, companies with strong roots in the Valley, have plans to expand their presence in Phoenix.
Additionally, a growing electric vehicle industry, including Lucid Motors, Atlis Motor Vehicles, ElectraMeccanica and Nikola Motor, is adding to the abundance of prospective career options for Fulton Schools students.
“The multiplier effect for manufacturing jobs is another important factor to look at,” Sugar says. “One manufacturing job brings nine additional jobs.”