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PowerPlex 2021 Key Takeaways Part 1: Smart Manufacturing for All

May 26, 2021
PowerPlex Unstoppable

The manufacturing conference of the year is off to a phenomenal start! Over 1,600 attendees from around the world enjoyed impactful sessions and were inspired by dynamic speakers during the first full day of PowerPlex. We miss seeing your faces in person, but it was incredible how engaging this year’s virtual setting turned out to be.

There’s a lot of information to unpack, so let’s get right into the highlights from the first half of PowerPlex.

Smart Manufacturing Is for Everyone

It’s clear that the effects of the pandemic accelerated the adoption of technology, making smart manufacturing essential to success. But what does that really mean? Our Plex leaders had the answers in clear and easy terms.

CEO Bill Berutti didn’t mince words when he described how smart manufacturing is for everyone. Not only is technology essential to compete, but it’s never been more accessible to implement and achieve ROI. It’s no longer only for huge companies with enormous budgets. And as we heard from both Cadillac Products Automotive Company and Drinkworks, investing in a smart manufacturing platform carved their paths to capitalizing on market opportunities. Bill also talked about how manufacturers are the ones leading the economic recovery and closed by describing how Plex customers achieve 80% more inventory turns and 18% higher production compared to industry averages.

A few hours later, GVP of Product Management and Strategy Nathan Pieri took the stage emphasizing how Industry 4.0 has hit a tipping point. Digitizing the manufacturing environment is no longer optional and failing to adapt will put companies behind. The team from Hatch Stamping illustrated Nathan’s points, taking attendees on a journey through their own digital transformation. Nathan also broke down the six tenets of the Plex Product Vision and described in detail how manufacturers can configure their own path to industry success with different technological entry points.

The night before these sessions, CMO Robin Saitz warmed up the main stage with a kick-off networking event that was a blast. People came together to talk shop, share personal stories, and show off some virtual dance moves. Seeing so many different people uniting for all these sessions reminded us how inclusive smart manufacturing is.

Recapping Your Favorite Tracks

PowerPlex has so many great tracks and exciting sessions that it can be easy to miss a key piece of information. With more highlights from other tracks to come in Part 2, here are some of the standout insights PowerPlex attendees discovered.

Track: Industry

  • Manufacturers use technology to achieve greater supply chain agility, increase operational efficiency, and enable data-driven decisions
  • Defining value cases and understanding the true cost/risk of relying on outdated technology are essential to overcoming barriers to adoption, driving innovation, and achieving future success
  • Cultivating internal champions who understand the business benefits of technology and optimizing solutions to best serve a business will maximize the value of the investment

Track: Business Management

  • Dynamic market conditions are driving manufacturers to rethink the management of their business operations
  • To effectively compete and grow on a global stage, leading manufacturers are turning to digital solutions to manage core issues such as compliance intensity, workforce fluidity, and supply chain agility
  • Top manufacturers are leveraging digital solutions to fully integrate their supply chain and financial processes in order to reduce risk and cost

Track: Smart Factory Floor

  • Manufacturing evolution and industry headwinds have made plant floor automation and data tools a necessity to compete
  • Plex’s recent Kors Engineering acquisition rounds out a complete manufacturing automation suite, consistently delivering groundbreaking ROI
  • Manufacturing automation can be low in cost and quick to implement with the tools Plex and partners provide, using existing infrastructure, equipment, and networks
  • Plex Industrial IoT and Mach2 offer low-cost, fast implementations that offer a long and wide path for continuous improvement and change management

Manufacturers are Unstoppable

This year’s PowerPlex theme is “unstoppable” for a reason. Over our decades in business, we’ve seen countless manufacturers grit their teeth and persevere through challenges to find success even when it seemed unlikely. That was especially true over the last year. And that’s why we invited some of the most unstoppable people we know to inspire us at PowerPlex.

  • Sarah Barrett of Barrett Petfood Innovations joined us to describe why trusting her intuition makes her unstoppable. With her dad and brother, she narrowly avoided losing their family farm before turning their new niche pet food business profitable. That company on the brink of closure now has 250 employees and is expanding.
  • Heidi Sipe is a superintendent from Umatilla, Oregon who helped establish and grow her district’s robotics team, reaching the world championships with little funding. Through a conversation with Robin Saitz, we learned about the impact access to STEM education has on students and what it was like to build a passionate, driven community that ended up in a PBS documentary.
  • Dave Lavery shared how one college intern in the late 1980s wanted to work with NASA and wouldn’t take no for an answer. That student changed NASA’s entire philosophical approach to exploring planets by creating a prototype that grandfathered the rovers exploring Mars today.
  • Hugh, John, and Joe Gaither, the father-and-sons team at the helm of Feetures, relayed how their performance sock brand was nearly stopped in its tracks by COVID-19. They relied on their passion, different perspectives, and unwavering trust to turn a $1.5 million investment into $3 million in revenue that kept the company strong in the face of a global pandemic.

During these unstoppable stories, we were proud to announce a Plex Smart Manufacturing Grant. Designed to close the manufacturing skills gap and encourage science and technology learning in young people, the grant supports FIRST® robotics teams around the globe. It was exciting to share that Umatilla School District’s FIRST® teams are the initial recipient of this grant! In addition to the $25,000 grant program donation, Plex also contributed $25,000 to the FIRST® organization.

Plex Impact Award Winners

During the first half of PowerPlex, we rolled out the virtual red carpet to present two of our annual Plex Impact Awards. These honor standout customers who embody the smart manufacturing movement and are leading the way by using technology to overcome challenges and create new opportunities.

The Business Operations Transformer Award honors companies that use Plex to dramatically change the way they operate. This year, Omega Bio-tek is that company. In the face of a global pandemic, they were agile enough to shift into producing 32 million COVID-19 tests for use worldwide while cutting logistics complaints in half.

Then, there’s the Product or Technology Innovator Award. This recognizes manufacturers who rely on Plex to drive innovation and push their operations to new limits. Hatch Stamping has set an example for the industry by reducing errors and downtime while improving reporting, all during a pandemic. Industry 4.0 isn’t some new trend to them; it’s essential.

Congratulations to both these companies and to all the competition that made the judging committee’s job so hard. We look forward to presenting more awards in the second half of PowerPlex and sharing greater detail on how these winners achieved greatness!

PowerPlex 2021 Key Takeaways Part 1

The first full day of PowerPlex was a great one filled with the insights and conversations you’ve come to expect. It’s hard to believe there’s a whole other day of events yet to come! We look forward to recapping more highlights in Part 2 of this blog series and hope to see you in more rewarding sessions.

Miss a key moment from the first half of the conference? Visit for all the on-demand recordings you can handle.

About the Author

Plex Team

Plex Systems, Inc., a Rockwell Automation company, is the leader in cloud-delivered smart manufacturing solutions, empowering the world’s manufacturers to make awesome products. Our platform gives manufacturers the ability to connect, automate, track and analyze every aspect of their business to drive transformation. The Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform includes solutions for manufacturing execution (MES), ERP, quality, supply chain planning and management, Industrial IoT and analytics to connect people, systems, machines, and supply chains, enabling them to lead with precision, efficiency and agility.