Interdisciplinary Center for Advanced Manufacturing Systems embarks on five-year smart manufacturing adoption study

Published: July 19, 2022

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In its ongoing effort to focus on reducing the barriers inhibiting the introduction of advanced manufacturing systems to small and medium manufacturing operations, the Interdisciplinary Center for Advanced Manufacturing Systems, or ICAMS, at Auburn University has embarked on a five-year longitudinal smart manufacturing adoption study to understand the current state of technology adoption in these operations that make up 90 percent of the industrial base.

The results of the study will uncover adoption motivations and barriers and shed light on important factors, such as awareness, technology, workforce and culture. The study will identify the phase the Small and Medium-sized Manufacturers, or SMMs, are in regarding the process of technology adoption: Knowledge, Persuasion, Decision, Implementation or Confirmation. By quantifying the depth and breadth of adoption year-to-year, ICAMS will be able to measure progress and adjust activities to strengthen weak areas and improve technology adoption.

The study will also provide a gauge for SMMs to determine where they are in Industry 4.0 technology adoption compared to their peers, as well as provide information to the Department of Defense, or DoD, on the actual state of the industrial base as to readiness for digital manufacturing.

According to Chris Peters, CEO of ICAMS partner, The Lucrum Group and co-author of the report, the five-year timeline of the study is important to provide a valuable roadmap that addresses two key areas.

“The first is to provide detailed quantitative evidence of U.S. industrial base progress,” he said. “The second is to improve the efficacy of existing efforts, identifying where adjustments are needed, or new tools should be created.”

Peters added that the team also believes that the longitudinal study will uncover differences between varying demographics, such as high-volume/low-mix producers versus low-volume/high-mix, and the perceived value of various smart manufacturing technologies.

Based on previous works, the actual state of technology adoption in SMMs is significantly behind that of large manufacturers and Original Equipment Manufacturers.

“The U.S. industrial base is at a crossroads,” said Greg Harris, director of ICAMS and co-author of the first-year report. “It is imperative that SMMs start to implement these advanced manufacturing technologies to improve their productivity, efficiency and competitiveness. By not adopting Smart Manufacturing technologies, the SMMS are in danger of falling so far behind the rest of the world in competitiveness that we could see a large portion of these manufacturers closing down in the next decade which will severely impact the Defense Industrial Base.”

Ashley Yarbrough, co-author of the report and graduate research assistant at ICAMS, said that as a center that strives to be a valuable resource for small and medium-sized manufacturers, this study is important for ICAMS so that the center can plan its activities to be a trusted third party and better serve the needs of SMMs.

“Understanding the current state of American manufacturers’ digital transformations and their motivations and barriers to adoption is crucial in determining the next steps to accelerate adoption,” Yarbrough said. “Countries that are best able to accelerate the depth and breadth of adoption will realize a competitive advantage.”

The first report of the five-year study was recently released and is available to view at

Submitted by: Carla Nelson

Smart Manufacturing Adoption Study graphic