Connected Enterprise Concepts


If the Industrial Revolution was a play in three acts, the curtain would now be opening on Act 3.

Act 1: The first Industrial Revolution introduces machines to the worlds of agriculture and manufacturing, bringing new economic opportunities to cities such as Milwaukee.

Act 2: A second manufacturing surge, following World War II, brings record-high levels of industrial output to Milwaukee.

Act 3: A rapidly emerging concept—let’s call it the Industrial Internet of Things for now—uses machine-to-machine communication to help companies make better decisions across the manufacturing process.

The Industrial Internet of Things hinges on the connectedness of physical devices, big data and analytics, and remote monitoring in order to make improvements in areas including supply chains, how and when things are manufactured, security and technology, according to Brett Peters, Dean, UWM College of Engineering & Applied Science. “The industries and employees who will win will be those that adapt to the new ways in which people, processes and technologies are being linked on a global level,” he said.

Future of Manufacturing Demands New Skills

In fall of 2016, UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science first offered a new course called Connected Enterprise Concepts to prepare students for careers in an increasingly connected, increasingly global, increasingly complex marketplace.

Associate Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Wilkistar Otieno is the creator of the Connected Enterprise course.

“The next generation of engineers will not work in silos. They will need to understand the big picture,” said Naira Campbell-Kyureghyan, Professor and Department Chair, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.

The inaugural Connected Enterprise Concepts course helped ready 26 graduate, undergraduate and non-traditional engineering students for careers which value knowledge outside the traditional boundaries of engineering.

“Connected Enterprise is an umbrella course that gives students an overview of the future of manufacturing,” said course creator Wilkistar Otieno, Associate Professor, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. “Students learn about topics that effect the connected workplace including cybersecurity, smart manufacturing, predictive analytics and how local and regional policies come into play.”

Upcoming courses will focus specifically on such individual areas.

Classroom Emphasized Real-Life Experience

Students included those in the workforce who are experiencing this sea change in manufacturing.

One student, Tess Impink-Hernandez, currently works as a manufacturing engineer for InSinkErator (a division of Emerson Electric Co.) in Racine, Wisconsin. She took the course when her company began to change its vertically-integrated business model after 80 years.

“It was difficult to understand the need for this change after a legacy of solid business in our home state of Wisconsin,” said Impink-Hernandez. “This class was instrumental in allowing me to see the larger picture of specific reasons why my company was making the changes. Almost every lecture gave me a new perspective of why my company was making seemingly radical changes, such as outsourcing our steel components or investing extreme amounts of money to migrate us towards an Internet-based system.

“The VP of Rockwell, for example, explained why it’s imperative that all the sites of a global business access the same information. At the end of the semester I was no longer concerned about the direction our corporation is taking us and even found that I was able to communicate some of the larger concepts to concerned employees and even alleviated a little of their worry.”

Students gave presentations on the final day of class.

To learn the software currently being used in companies using the principles of connected enterprise, students teamed up in a simulation game in which they owned and ran a cereal company. Teams made decisions on many variables including ordering and shipping raw products, producing and shipping products, selecting markets, selecting product variety and quantities for each market, investing in marketing, and setting prices. The goals included profit, saving time, improving quality control and quickly identifying inefficiencies.

“Our group found that changing the size of the cereal box made a difference in our profitability,” said Madiha Ahmed, a doctoral student in industrial and manufacturing engineering. “It was a strategy game that connected all departments of a company.”

Guest Lecturers Help Students Think Outside the Box

Throughout the course, students heard from several faculty members from disciplines other than engineering who shared how their areas of expertise fit into today’s global marketplace. One of them was Jenny Kehl, Director of the Global Water Security Project and Associate Professor in UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences. Kehl specializes in the political economy of water scarcity and examines government negotiations with foreign investors in water and natural resource extraction.

“Water is a pivotal example of the global marketplace’s complexity,” she said. From Kehl, students began to consider the big picture of resources; the quality, quantity, security, and technology associated with resources (such as water) and how the globalization of resource security can affect the supply chain, production and consumption of products worldwide.

“This is a new skill required for engineering students in a globalized world,” Kehl said. “In order for them to be successful, they have to be trained to operate and maneuver in a complex global world, not to think in academic silos or regional isolation.”

Rockwell Automation Praises Industry-Ready Syllabus

To create the course, Otieno teamed up with 20 Rockwell Automation employees and seven UWM faculty members from the College of Engineering & Applied Science, the Lubar School of Business, and the school of Freshwater Sciences.

The result was right on target, according to Michael Cook, Director, University Partnership Program and Global Business Development at Rockwell Automation. Cook was one of the course’s content providers and is helping to shape an advanced course. The company’s move to a more connected enterprise is driving the need for employees with new skill sets, he said.

“We work with over 90 top-tier universities across the globe,” Cook said. “UWM is the only one to have created and executed a high-quality, industry-relevant syllabus on Connected Enterprise.”

Account Manager of Rockwell Automation Scott Feldman helped students think outside the box in order to be prepared for an increasingly complex marketplace.

Lyman Tschanz, (’82, MBA Business Administration) Vice President, Rockwell Automation Global Operations, was also on hand to watch the students’ final presentations. “Rockwell Automation’s relationship with UWM is very important,” he told the class. “We have 22,000 employees globally; 2,900 employees in Milwaukee; and 700 employees who are UWM engineering or business graduates.”

“If you go back in time, having a good product was all that mattered,” Tschanz told the class. “Today a great product is not enough. Consumers want great quality, special features, and delivery ASAP.”

But the worlds of engineering, business and consumerism are changing in large part because of big data, the amount of which weighs in between “amazing and terrifying,” he said. “It’s no longer just about business and factory flow. It’s the connection of data between plant flow and supply chain. Understanding this is vital to future employees.”

Future of New Course Reflects UWM’s Past

Connected Enterprise Concepts will be offered again in fall 2017. It is one example of UWM’s early entry into this field; other collaborative research and teaching initiatives on the Industrial Internet of Things are taking place at the Lubar School of Business. More are on the horizon.

Students in UWM’s inaugural Connected Enterprise Concepts course celebrate completion of their final presentations.

“UWM is ideal for embracing the ways technology is connecting our areas of expertise,” Peters said.

Today, UWM is a top-tier university with 14 schools and colleges. Its ascendency is owed in part to its long-standing commitment to the state’s largest city –Milwaukee.

Since it inception in 1964, for example, UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science has aligned itself with the region’s manufacturing community to collaboratively face new challenges and to prepare an increasingly trained workforce. Today, that means preparing all engineering students to think outside the box.

“Engineering is changing,” said Ahmed, the doctoral student. “What you need to accomplish is the same. How you do it is different. Everything is more automated and interconnected.”

While the term Industrial Internet of Things may stick or not, one thing seems certain: Act 3 has begun. And UWM is on the stage.

Carolyn Bucior