Design Research and Strategy, Graduate Student at Carnegie Mellon University
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Digital Intensity in Manufacturing

After success in an earlier study, I was contracted by the Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center Network to produce an extensive study on the detailed use of information technology in the state’s leading small- to medium-sized manufacturers. Work on this project culminated with the development of the Center’s new approach to technology with its clients.

Principal investigator, subject matter expert, researcher, writer

Digital Intensity in Manufacturing

With: Keith Ashlock, Timothy Clark, Harry Landsburg, Ron May, Dale Parmenteri, Zane Patalive, Irene Petrick, Scott Sipe, Ed Wagner, Ronald Williams, and Chris Wilusz
For: The Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center Network


 Click to view the form

Click to view the form

Identify Lead Manufacturers: I worked with leaders from each of the Center’s regional offices to identify candidates for the state’s most digitally-savvy small- to medium-sized manufacturers. I made a tool with Google Forms to easily facilitate this process. I updated an existing body of secondary research and attended various industry events to identify current megatrends and needs. Based on this, I selected one company from each region that highlighted one of these trends.


What project are you most excited to share with me?
— Single phone screening question

Pre-Interviews: I conducted an exploratory phone screening with each selected company. The template was simple, but incredibly effective: “What project are you most excited to share with me?” Each screening generated two or three projects for each company. With about 20 projects to choose from, we selected ones that represented the most sophisticated (or surprising) use of technology.


Onsite Interviews: I planned and completed seven onsite interviews with manufacturers across the state. I budgeted three hours for each interview—one hour for a tour of the shop floor (duh!) and two hours for the interview (average interview time was 80 minutes).


Case Studies: I paid careful attention to storytelling in these case studies. The purpose wasn’t merely to inform or even showcase particular technologies, but to engage other manufacturers in approaching new technology-led projects. I clearly explained how the problem was identified—and by whom, the work done to mitigate the problem, any unexpected outcomes, and the final measurable result. The result was seven “handout” case studies (designed to be one page and able to be easily handed out like business cards).


Synthesis: Several trends appeared in my research and interviews. These insights informed a strategy we called Digital Intensity.


 Click to view final report

Click to view final report

Outcome: The first implementation of our Digital Intensity strategy came from the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center. Paid for by a grant from the Department of Labor, the center hosted an Additive Manufacturing Intensive in partnership with NextFab, a Philadelpha maker space. The two-day hands-on workshop introduced manufacturers to the tools and concepts of additive manufacturing with cheap FDM printers and free software—quickly building the foundational skills needed to evaluate additive manufacturing for use on the shop floor.


With: Keith Ashlock, Timothy Clark, Harry Landsburg, Ron May, Dale Parmenteri, Zane Patalive, Irene Petrick, Scott Sipe, Ed Wagner, Ronald Williams, and Chris Wilusz

For: The Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center Network

Thumbnail photo from home page courtesy NextFab and Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center