Next-generation factory opens on UWM’s campus

The Connected Systems Institute (CSI) has launched its first industry testbed and production line, putting a manufacturing facility in the same building that houses UWM’s Golda Meir Library.

The testbed and a companion Digital Twin Laboratory allow researchers and students to virtually simulate solutions to common manufacturing challenges and execute those approaches physically. It makes products that include a wide variety of ingredients.

Connected systems refers to a factory that’s filled with sensors recording continuous data and streaming that data to the industrial internet of things (IIoT). Tracking and manipulating the data gives manufacturers new insights that can increase efficiency and create other opportunities to improve processes.

Mary Bunzel
Mary Bunzel

“The production of these goods relies on the integration of sophisticated tools from today’s leading industrial suppliers,” says Mary Bunzel, CSI executive director. “This is the sandbox that we offer.”

CSI not only focuses on weaving connected technology into manufacturing systems, but also on the risk-benefit analysis necessary for decisions involving automation and the IIoT. To feed testbed activities, a fictional company was set up within UWM’s Lubar School of Business to process customer orders for products made at the factory.

Connected factories are expected to usher in the next wave of automation and reinvigorate U.S. industry. The CSI brings university researchers, manufacturers and students together to solve problems specific to the industry while also jump-starting the workforce training necessary for the transition.

Building CSI’s testbed was made possible by Rockwell Automation, Microsoft, We Energies, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and other contributing partners, including Cisco, Dell, APT, Haskell, Endress+Hauser, Symbiont, Eaton, Heartland Business Systems, ANSYS, Fortinet and FANUC.