The Search for Scalable Solutions

Aug. 22, 2022
MxD’s Berardino Baratta leads the consortium as it develops practical strategies for digital manufacturing.

The consortia under the Manufacturing USA banner continue to drive a lot of innovation with a mix of public, private, government and educational assets all working together to solve some of the manufacturing issues of today and certainly prepare for manufacturing tomorrow. With that in mind, Machine Design recently sat down with Berardino Baratta, the new CEO of MxD.

In his role, Baratta oversees all the technology investments, partner relations and project execution for MxD’s more than $120 million portfolio advanced manufacturing technology, cybersecurity and workforce development research, development and demonstration.

Baratta and Machine Design senior content director Bob Vavra discussed the mission of MxD in a wide-ranging interview. They talked about MxD’s success to date, how more manufacturers could use MxD on their own projects, and the future of digital technology.

This video has been broken up into chapters for easy navigation. Hover and click on a circle in the play bar to jump to each section. The chapter titles and highlights are listed below.

Chapter 1: MxD’s Growth
Chapter 2: Workforce Development
Chapter 3: Importance of Partnerships
Chapter 4: Evolution of Workshops & Seminars
Chapter 5: Factory of the Future
Chapter 6: Focus on Small- to Mid-Sized
Chapter 7: Cybersecurity for Smaller Companies
Chapter 8: MxD Roadshow
Chapter 9: Targeting Internal Cybersecurity Threats
Chapter 10: Barriers for Advanced Computing Technologies
Chapter 11: Upskilling & Workforce Retention
Chapter 12: Challenges for the Future of Manufacturing

Chapter 1: MxD’s Growth

In this chapter, Baratta discusses his personal history with MxD, which began three years ago. One of the biggest changes to the MxD facility over the last five years includes two 5G networks.

Baratta: “If you visited MxD before the pandemic, and you visited today, it is 70% different—80% almost—almost every element of that floor is changed. One example of that is AT&T and Datacom, as members, we have a fully functional 5G network here, not just one but two. We can cover all of the 5G technologies that manufacturers are looking to use. Working with the government and industry, we have funding to go build out a series of testbeds that we'll start looking at the use cases that both industry and the DOD need and so that we can start testing 5G use cases here in our factory environment.”

Chapter 2: Workforce Development

The manufacturing industry has been preparing for the workforce shortfall for decades, and now that it is coming to fruition, MxD saw cybersecurity as a new avenue for the manufacturing workforce. Baratta explained MxD’s Cybersecurity for Manufacturing Hiring guide identified more than 427 cybersecurity roles and built out career pathways for them.

Baratta: “To me, this is the most interesting thing we do because it it’s impacting human lives, right? If we can create an opportunity for someone to have a career in manufacturing that they didn't have access to before, these are fulfilling careers that can really help take care of people and change their lives.” 

Chapter 3: Importance of Partnerships

Vavra pointed out that MxD began as a governmental partnership, but now MxD’s partners range from government, public, private and academic institutions. As a response, Baratta described how all the organization’s partners help serve its members—small- to mid-size manufacturers.

Baratta: “So, we had a first-generation project that was with Dow and Microsoft and Purdue University. They worked together showing how you can use artificial intelligence to identify risks within the supply chain. When we had the opportunity with CARES Act funding to build on that, we expanded that program out and started looking at a much broader form of risk, but also much broader tools in place to try to mitigate that risk.”

Chapter 4: Evolution of Workshops & Seminars

One of MxD’s initiatives before the pandemic was hosting events that contained real-world use cases for different technologies in several industry verticals. Baratta explained that during the pandemic, the company shifted to virtual learning webinars, and those remain to this day.

Chapter 5: Factory of the Future

MxD’s Chicago facility houses advanced manufacturing examples, most notably, a functional Industry 4.1 cybersecurity test bed.

Baratta: “Our space here in Chicago…we put into practice Industry 4.1 cybersecurity. So it’s not just the PowerPoint, it’s not just a concept. You can come in and see these things, right? Hands on, some of them you can literally hands on and go touch them and play with them, you know, our assembly test bed is a fan favorite because they get to actually play with the tech up front.”

Chapter 6: Focus on Small- to Mid-Sized

Vavra and Baratta discussed the community surrounding MxD’s headquarters. Fast Radius, a 3D printing company, used MxD’s technology and ecosystem of partners to drive innovation in the additive manufacturing industry.

The two also discussed the reluctancy some smaller manufacturers have regarding advanced technology adoption.

Baratta: “We do things where every project has to have an outcome, some tangible value that’s provided to all members, no matter what size. For a lot of them, it’s outcomes where they can actually understand, ‘Okay, here’s what it took to build this technology. Here’s the benefit that we saw. Here’s the problems that we faced,’ so they can go into these efforts, eyes wide open.”

Chapter 7: Cybersecurity for Smaller Companies

Elaborating on an earlier point, the two transitioned into a discussion about the need for heightened cybersecurity—especially for smaller companies who think they might not be at high risk due to their size.

Baratta: “So, a small business…They don't know what to do. We actually have curated a list of vendors. We’re not Amazon, we’re not trying to sell you solutions, but our members have said, ‘Hey, give us some guidelines on who to work with,’ so we've curated a set of about 60 vendors right now, and it’s growing every day, that are like, ‘Okay, I need multifactor authentication.’ Here’s three of them that we’ve pre-vetted for you, and so it helps ultimately people to move forward and avoid those roadblocks that are in their way.”

Chapter 8: MxD Roadshow

Baratta pointed out that there is only so much that can be done virtually. The MxD Roadshow is a program in which the organization comes to the manufacturers to evaluate their infrastructure, equipment and architectures.

Chapter 9: Targeting Internal Cybersecurity Threats

The most dangerous cybersecurity threat is that which comes from inside. As a national center for cybersecurity, MxD phishes its own to ensure personnel are trained in the act of risk mitigation.

Baratta: “Industry 4.0, digital manufacturing lives about data. It’s sharing data within your operations. It's sharing data among your supply chain. You can’t gap everything and expect that it’s going to solve the issue. So again, it’s like it's an awareness campaign. How do you get people to understand where the risks are? How do you get people to look into this? Manufacturing is now the number one target for cybersecurity attacks. It’s passed insurance, it's passed finance.”

Chapter 10: Barriers for Advanced Computing Technologies

Vavra asked Baratta what keeps manufacturers from adopting technologies like edge computing and AI.

Baratta:So this is probably the answer you don't like because the answer is really good shape, really bad shape. The answer is it depends, right?”

3D printers, for example, were pulled from prototyping duty and put on the factory floor when the supply chain ruptured in the height of COVID.

Baratta: "I think the thing that’s in the way is skills, like, first and foremost, right? And it’s, and again, we’re not talking about having more data scientists and more engineers in your facility. How do you get the people on the factory floor to understand what they need to know to make this happen? That’s the first step. The other one is leadership.”

Chapter 11: Upskilling & Workforce Retention

Baratta:You need to start thinking about micro-learning, micro-certifications that give people the skills they need without them leaving the workforce to get them. That’s going to be the key to the future so that you have that resilient, flexible, adaptable workforce that can meet the needs of your facilities both today and in years to come.”

Chapter 12: Challenges for the Future of Manufacturing

Vavra and Baratta closed their chat with the “What’s next?” question. The answer? Manufacturing has momentum it cannot and should not lose. “Normal” is continuously changing and evolving, and so does industry. This includes innovation and outward thinking on all fronts: Cybersecurity, personnel training, education, leadership and technology.

Baratta: “We were always looking a few years out because of the way we live in that innovation valley of death, it’s not looking at today’s problems. “It’s looking at tomorrow’s problems and trying to invest in those areas to prepare the industry to be ready to respond to them.”

Click here for more highlights of Bob Vavra's interview with Bernardino Baratta.

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