“Manufacturing isn’t like your father’s manufacturing anymore. It’s cool.”
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee established its Connected Systems Institute in 2017 as a higher education-industry consortium with the goal of helping area manufacturers take advantage of Industrial Internet of Things technology. It launched with the help of a $1.7 million donation from Rockwell Automation, and in 2019 received a $1.5 million gift from Microsoft Corp.
Mary Bunzel recently joined the CSI as its executive director. A Wisconsin native and Marquette University alum, Bunzel has spent more than 30 years in asset management, most recently at Intel and IBM, where she managed global teams responsible for advancing the adoption of IoT.
BizTimes Milwaukee associate editor Lauren Andrson recently caught up with Bunzel about her new role.
What drew you to the CSI?
“I was planning to retire in another year or so, but then I learned about this role at the CSI. It really spoke to my heart because it was coming home to Milwaukee and working in a really important place – that translation between academia and what manufacturing needs. Not only that, but we’re setting up a test bed, a piece of equipment that’s designed to be able to train students on all those things that I was teaching and learning with IBM and Intel.”
“You can imagine, working in the kind of roles that I have for the amount of time that I have, I’m kind of considered the grandmother of asset management in manufacturing. ... We have an active network connection so I’m able to call on (industry connections) to help me. And they’re very interested in helping because it’s an important mission to help create the workforce of the future and accelerate the adoption of IoT in small and medium (sized) businesses. Everybody wants to get behind that.”
It’s been three years since the CSI was founded. What’s happened since then?
“When the chancellor first came together with Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft) and Blake Moret (CEO of Rockwell) and came up with this idea to create the CSI, they got their teams involved, which is really a fantastic blending of all the resources necessary to bring the CSI to fruition. There was the business plan writing, the mapping of the test bed requirements and facility requirements to that plan, and then facility construction occurred and lots of engineering has taken place on the building of the facility and the equipment that’s going to go in there. It’s a compact piece of equipment, but we’re going to be able to train on so many things – supply chain track and trace, machine vision and artificial intelligence on four different kinds of robots. … Next door (there will be) a digital twin lab, where students will be able to go in and learn about mechatronic connections to PLCs in a simulated environment and create programs in that simulated digital twin environment and then port the program over to the production line where they’ll be able to see it running in real time on the line.”
How will COVID-19 affect the CSI’s work?
“It’s very much a challenge and lots of people have lost their jobs from the service industry and some of those jobs won’t come back. So how do we help those people? We can provide training. We can provide training on OT security, on machine learning and AI. And some of the professors that are teaching these courses are from companies that need people to do the implementation of this work … Manufacturing isn’t like your father’s manufacturing anymore. It’s cool. There’s widgets and gadgets and programming and robots and computers. It’s cool to work in manufacturing and unlimited opportunities for anyone who wants to step into it.”
How is Milwaukee’s manufacturing sector doing in terms of adopting IoT?
“I think there are pockets of real innovation, amazing innovation. There are some very large enterprises that are leveraging IoT, but it’s not to the extent that I feel we have the potential for. I think there are still several business leaders who could take advantage of innovation but are holding back.”