TUPELO – Smart manufacturing may be the operational process of the future, and businesses may have to become accustomed to the blurred lines between technology and industry and work with communities to create a highly skilled workforce through early, specialized education.
At an Appalachian Regional Commission panel meeting on the future of manufacturing last week, ARC Business Development Program manager David Hughes said industries are moving toward having connected factories where machines talk to one another and share data, where there is a greater need for data storage capability and where cloud computing is a growing sub-domain of increasingly important cybersecurity.
Stephen Lier, chief engineer at Mueller Industries Copper Tube Mill in Fulton, said Mueller is the world leader in flow control and industrial production and is the highest volume at lowest cost provider for copper tubing in the marketplace. But the said there is a growing need within the business for a skilled workforce to maintain specialized equipment, and the company needs those employees to stay.
Lier said the 500 employees at the Fulton mill are supposed to produce 1 million pounds of product a day at the highly automated tube mill, but actually produce an average of 200 million pounds of product per year.
“So there’s plenty of room to grow,” Lier said.