U.S. manufacturing has long been at a crossroads, but the way forward will likely be built on a foundation of technology and big data. It’s an approach called smart manufacturing, and according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), it consists of “fully integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems that respond in real time to meet changing demands and conditions in the factory, in the supply network, and in customer needs.” Many predict that it will be the next Industrial Revolution.

Last June, smart manufacturing gained significant momentum when President Barack Obama announced a five-year, $70 million grant to the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC), a consortium of nearly 200 partners from more than 30 states, including academia, industry and nonprofits, to establish the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CESMII). Headquartered in Los Angeles and anchored by UCLA, CESMII will be a national network with regional centers in California, Washington, New York, North Carolina and Texas to leverage each area’s unique industrial environments. Its aim will be to accelerate advances in smart sensors and digital process controls that can radically improve the efficiency of U.S. advanced manufacturing and fuel industry growth and innovation nationwide. The $70 million federal investment will be matched by more than $70 million from the private sector to develop the advanced technologies and a supporting workforce and education pipeline.

With CESMII looking to train 500 students annually in smart manufacturing, CSUN, along with CSU Long Beach and Cal Poly Pomona, have been enlisted among its academic members. These CSU campuses are part of the CSU-5 comprising the five LA Basin CSU campuses and will play key roles in educating students in the field. S. K. Ramesh, CECS dean, who represents the university at the institute, notes that CECS faculty will participate in research and have the responsibility of meeting education and workforce development needs. Certificate-level training programs may also become available through the Tseng College of Extended Learning.

“We offer one of the three ABET accredited bachelor’s degree programs in manufacturing systems engineering in the state of California, and we are a leading partner in the national Maker Faire Movement, Higher Education University Alliance,” Ramesh says. “Our faculty and students work on a variety of areas of interest to the new institute, including software development, sensors, advanced modeling and control systems. It’s a perfect fit because the institute—and the college— are committed to propelling manufacturing where it needs to go in the future.”

“We offer one of the three ABET accredited bachelor’s degree programs in manufacturing systems engineering in the state of California…” Ramesh says.