September/October 2021 | Vol. 26 No.5
As we emerge from a once-in-a-century pandemic, a once-in-a-generation opportunity lies before us: the chance to revitalize American manufacturing and industry.
It’s not just new Federal investment that is creating this opportunity—there is also a paradigm shift underway. After decades of the lean regime, businesses are rethinking supply chain strategies. They are shifting to remote work models and digitalized operations. They are looking for a new way to do business.
Once again, the electrical manufacturing industry is right in the middle of the conversation. We will be answering the call to modernize legacy brownfield sites. And we’ll be mobilizing to build new greenfield—whether it’s 70,000 more electric vehicle charging sites or doubling renewable generation capacity by 2030.
Although new greenfield builds will attract more headlines, I think the brownfield modernization story will be just as significant. In developed countries like ours, 65 percent of the buildings that will exist in 2060 exist today.1 If we are going to bolster supply chains, meet ambitious net-zero goals, and elevate U.S. manufacturing’s global competitiveness, we will have to do it largely with the industrial facilities that are already built.
This issue of electroindustry explores technologies and ideas to transform any industrial site digitally. As it turns out, you can teach an old factory new tricks, and we will see that up close in a feature story about Schneider Electric’s smart factory in Lexington, KY.
Our factory has manufactured electrical products for over six decades. And even though it’s the definition of a brownfield industrial site, it didn’t stop us from modernizing it over the years with industrial IoT connectivity, cloud analytics, predictive demand modeling, and energy-efficiency optimizations.
Often, the only list a 63-year-old building can expect to land on is the National Register of Historic Places. Not so in this case. Last year, the World Economic Forum designated our industrial site as an “Advanced Lighthouse”—a recognition given to a few dozen of the world’s smartest factories.
I hope that our factory’s story, along with many other inspirational examples set by NEMA Members, provides proof of concept and creates momentum for change. The entire U.S. manufacturing base needs to make the leap, with cybersecurity at the forefront, from Industry 3.0 to 4.0 and from 4G to 5G.
How do we make that leap? How do we invigorate American industrial infrastructure? Read on and find out. ei
Chair, NEMA Board of Governors
1 World Green Building Council, Global Status Report 2017, p. 3