5 things I'm looking forward to at Smart Industry 2017

Want to talk the IIoT on LSD? Join us in Chicago this September.

By Christine LaFave Grace, managing editor

The Smart Industry 2017 conference, produced and hosted by Plant Services sister publication Smart Industry, is now officially next month. (How can it possibly be August already?) For three days, Sept. 18–20, industry leaders and a range of professionals who have boots-on-the-ground experience implementing smart technologies to better manage their manufacturing operations will converge on Chicago to talk digital transformation.

This is the third year for the Smart Industry conference, and the lineup of speakers and discussions looks to be the best yet. I'll be there, at the prime-positioned Swissotel (just off Chicago's Magnificent Mile), as will Plant Services Editor-in-Chief Thomas Wilk. The chance to cut through IIoT hype and talk real-world applications of smart, connected tech – and then enjoy the stunning views of downtown and the lakefront in maybe Chicago's most beautiful month – what could be better for a September workweek?

To join us and hear from the likes of Exelon Generation innovation director Joan Knight, Caterpillar director of innovation & digital Tom Bucklar, Pacesetter Steel operations VP Tyler Grahovec, and more, register for the conference at event.smartindustry.com. As a bonus for Plant Services readers, enter code PS when you register for $150 off.

What else can you expect at Smart Industry 2017? In no particular order, here are five things I'm especially looking forward to.

  1. Co-hosting a tour of Pacesetter Steel's steel production and processing facility south of downtown and seeing in action how the award-winning, Georgia-based company has implemented IIoT tools to boost productivity, gain greater visibility into operations, and enhance customer satisfaction. We can talk all day about the power and potential of the IIoT, but there's nothing like seeing connected tools in action and getting an in-person view of how it all comes together, no? This tour, taking place the morning of Monday, Sept. 18, has a limited number of spots available, so register now if you'd like to join us.
  2. Attending Joan Knight's (Exelon) keynote presentation on Monday afternoon about how Exelon is cultivating innovation throughout the company, especially via its multidisciplinary Digital Plant Transformation Team. We Plant Services editors hear time and again how crucial it is to have cross-functional teams working on any major initiative, whether it's implementing a new CMMS, starting a design-for-reliability program, or shifting to a more-efficient maintenance culture with the help of smart technologies. I'm eager to hear about the value that this kind of collaboration has provided for Exelon and what the company has learned from a best-practices perspective about getting people who have wide-ranging areas of expertise, experience levels, and team needs to meaningfully work together on digital transformation.
  3. Hearing Bill Metz, VP of operations for industrial valve-maker Richards Industries, share how a pilot program two years ago to collect and visualize data on 10 machines – data not just on the machines' performance, but on operators' interactions with the machines, too – has helped propel his company to new levels of productivity and uptime. Metz promises to share the challenges and pitfalls his team encountered in implementing new productivity software; the "what we wish we'd known" perspective always is invaluable to me.
  4. Connecting with attendees – with practitioners working to make smarter production and maintenance a reality for their organization. Getting plants more digitally connected and effecting real change in processes, procedures, and behaviors is easy to talk about, tough to do. I want to hear your stories – what are your organization's pressure points; what gains have you realized from your digital initiatives? The conference offers networking receptions Monday and Tuesday nights; I'll look forward to meeting you there. Plus, you're done by 7 p.m. both nights, so get out and grab a beer at a rooftop bar or a burger (sorry, "cheezborger") at the infamous Billy Goat Tavern.
  5. I have to be a broken record here: Chicago's my hometown and there's maybe no better time for showing off the city than September. Editor-in-Chief Tom Wilk, VP of content (and Smart Industry 2017 guru) Keith Larson and I all are running nerds, so I'll relish getting in a pre-marathon taper run on the lakefront path, which is about half a mile from the hotel. Millennium Park and Grant Park are less than a mile away, too – because sometimes your best ideas come when you get out and get moving, right?

Attending Smart Industry 2017 and want to say hello at the event? Questions about the conference? Need restaurant/sightseeing recommendations? Email me at clafavegrace@putman.net. Hope to see you in Chicago next month!

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