The factory showcases advanced manufacturing techniques and is designed to help companies build a road map to spur innovation and growth
June 7, 2022
WICHITA, Kan.— Demand for critical products is increasing amid volatile supply chains, labor shortages, and a turbulent global economy. Yet many manufacturers continue to rely on outdated legacy systems to power their operations.
By engineering an end-to-end smart manufacturing operation, companies can boost their efficiency, sustainability, and cybersecurity—achievements that build resilience and lay a foundation for growth and competitive advantage. That’s the idea behind a new Smart Factory launched by Deloitte to support a community known for its deep roots in manufacturing.
The Smart Factory @ Wichita is a 60,000-square-foot “experience center” on the Innovation Campus of Wichita State University. It aims are lofty: to spur innovation through digital transformation, bringing together Deloitte’s technology experience with the university’s research, educational, and innovation capabilities. Wichita State University is also using the factory in its curriculum as an applied learning experience to enrich its students’ experiences and help inspire the next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) manufacturing talent, according to a release from Deloitte.
The Smart Factory @ Wichita features a fully functioning manufacturing production line that showcases the power of leading-edge smart factory technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), big data, cloud and edge applications, robotics, and computer vision. It employs advanced manufacturing techniques in a variety of applications on a shop floor, aiming to help visitors navigate their toughest manufacturing challenges by experiencing Industry 4.0 in action.
“Manufacturers must evolve in response to unprecedented levels of supply chain and workforce disruption by reassessing the capacity and agility of their manufacturing operations,” said Dan Helfrich, chair and CEO of Deloitte Consulting LLP, in the release. “The Smart Factory @ Wichita showcases how Deloitte and our strong ecosystem of collaborators is bringing this innovation to life and helping deliver a combination of strategy and end-to-end technology to help organizations better navigate the challenges of today and tomorrow with a tech-forward approach.”
Visitors to the new, immersive facility can experience smart factory concepts that bring together the internet of things (IoT), cloud, artificial intelligence, and computer vision to create interconnected systems that use data to drive intelligent actions. They can participate in real-world demonstrations and hands-on workshops, and can see practical applications brought to life that are designed to help their organizations build a road map to accelerate growth, Deloitte said in the release.
It is hoped that the factory will serve as a catalyst for operational transformations and improved business results. To this end, Deloitte has created a technology platform, Smart Factory Accelerator, with a suite of managed services. These services enable manufacturers that are navigating the complex digital transformation landscape to optimally achieve their operational performance objectives, the company said.
The cloud-based platform’s advanced analytics, coupled with Deloitte’s network of ecosystem relationships, are intended to solve for important operational challenges, such as visibility into end-to-end operations at scale. They also provide proactive, predictive operational insights and help achieve “step-change performance objectives,” according to the release.
Deloitte said The Smart Factory @ Wichita engages many parts of the community, including local vendors, suppliers, and businesses. It is anticipated to draw more than 5,000 visitors—including leaders from prominent companies—to the area over the next 12 months.
The company also said the factory is committed to enabling the next generation of innovators through its commitment to philanthropy and STEM education. The factory joined forces with Elenco Electronics and AWS to help produce and distribute a new STEM education product: the Smart Rover kit. Described as a 21st century learning experience, the Smart Rover Kit is produced on the factory’s state-of-the-art production line. It incorporates one of Elenco’s award-winning Snap Circuits kits, the Snap Rover, with a Raspberry Pi microcomputer and camera module to educate middle school students on product design, coding, and engineering.
The program’s mission is to inspire the next generation of diverse innovators to fill the growing talent gap in critical STEM-focused areas. Initial donations have reportedly impacted 1,000 middle school students in Metro Detroit, Philadelphia, and Wichita in 2022. Deloitte aims to reach 800,000 students in the U.S. over four years to foster long-term systemic impact in STEM education, the company said.
“As a manufacturing and technology hub, we continue to draw top talent and businesses to Wichita,” said Rick Muma, Ph.D. and president, Wichita State University, in the release. “And Wichita State University’s collaboration with Deloitte deepens opportunities for our students and community with access to the world’s top innovators and futurists coming through The Smart Factory @ Wichita as they explore how to transform their own business operations.”
The Smart Factory @ Wichita is housed in a net-zero building. It is powered by a renewable energy smart grid and is outfitted with wind trees, solar assets, and smart lighting. The STEM kits produced at the factory are reported to use 100 percent recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) collected from the local recycling stream as the primary raw material.