Smart Factory Institute in Chattanooga now open

Oct. 25, 2021
Deutsche Messe Technology Academy initiates facility for industrial knowledge transfer in the U.S.

Deutsche Messe Technology Academy is continuing its rapid internationalization in the United States with the opening of the Smart Factory Institute in Chattanooga on October 1. This industrial knowledge transfer facility is supported by several partners in the United States as well as the Volkswagen Academy, and is designed to stimulate innovation in industrial companies in the southeastern United States.   

The project, which was envisaged by the Deutsche Messe Technology Academy even before the outbreak of the global pandemic, was supported by numerous partners in the United States. The Smart Factory Institute Chattanooga brings together the Tennessee Manufacturers Association, the human resources development company Peak Performance Inc. and the Volkswagen Academy. The project has the backing of the Tennessee state legislature and Governor Bill Lee. Tennessee gave the green light for the project and is providing seed money of $400,000 for the institute.

Other local Volkswagen Academy partners, such as the Engineering and Information Technologies Division at Chattanooga State Community College, are also contributing to the new institute. Its goal is industrial knowledge transfer in this region of the southeastern United States.

Denise Rice, president and CEO of Peak Performance Inc. and director of the institute, said, "The technologies presented in the facility cover all aspects of Industry 4.0. " She said the Smart Facory Institute aims to focus on seven main categories: systems integration, cloud computing, collaborative robotics, additive manufacturing, augmented and virtual reality, big data & analytics, and cyber physical systems. Denise Rice added, "We will also offer workshops and training on new ways of working such as SMART TPM and Agile Working."

Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant itself is providing the infrastructure for the academy, which is located next to the assembly plant. Tom du Plessis, head of Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant, emphasized the long-term effect of skills training for the region.

Speaking for the entire local industry, Bradley Jackson, president and CEO of the Tennessee Manufacturers Association, welcomed the establishment of the institute. He said it will help the state of Tennessee "be at the forefront of promoting innovation" in the United States.

Both face-to-face and online events are planned in Chattanooga. For Peak Performance’s Rice, one of the lessons learned from the pandemic year is to provide blended learning with virtual formats as in Deutsche Messe's other Technology Academy locations. "This allows us to reach a broader audience virtually."

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Industrial and Organizational Psychology department will also partner with the new Smart Factory Institute.

Rice also has the support of the Smart Factory Institute's new director, Mary Beth Hudson. She was site manager of Wacker's polysilicon production plant in nearby Charleston for five years and has a good network with local industry. "Our success will be defined by increasing the competitiveness of the manufacturing industry, which will introduce new and smart technologies and employ highly skilled professionals." 

For Thomas Rilke, division manager of the Deutsche Messe Technology Academy, the upcoming opening of an Industry Academy in the United States is a long-held plan and an important step. "Our drive for internationalization is to support our internationally active technology partners in the global transfer of knowledge. A presence in the U.S., one of the world's leading industrialized countries, is therefore a necessity for us,” Rilke said.

Rilke is convinced that the Smart Factory Institute can contribute to the further development of industry in the southeastern United States. As at the Academy's other sites around the world, however, he also expects it to provide impetus for further industrial relocations. "Sustainable and successful investment is increasingly tied to the ability of sites to keep pace with the ever-renewing skill requirements in manufacturing. We want to contribute to this everywhere,” Rilke added.

Reinhold Umminger, director global business at Deutsche Messe Technology Academy, believes Chattanooga is the ideal location for a new industrial academy, and not just because of its proximity to the Volkswagen plant. "The most important thing is that our partner Peak Performance will tap into the market with a highly motivated team,” Umminger said.

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