CIRAS to be Key in Manufacturing 4.0 Initiative

Work by CIRAS to increase the adoption of cutting-edge edge technology in Iowa manufacturing will play a key role supporting the state’s new plan for keeping Iowa industry competitive.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the new Manufacturing 4.0 Initiative on Thursday, saying it was intended to outline “new strategies to support (manufacturers’) efforts and ensure Iowa’s future prosperity is widespread, reaching all people in all parts of Iowa.”

The initiative, which is led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, creates strategies and actions focused on ensuring Iowa is a global leader in the next generation of manufacturing. Some key areas that will involve CIRAS include plans to:

  • Increase usage of CIRAS’s Industry 4.0 Assessments.
  • Monitor and Track Manufacturing 4.0 Adoption.
  • Support cross-industry and industry-university collaborations and implement company specific assessments to address critical manufacturing-specific cybersecurity challenges.
  • Provide resources to Iowa manufacturing SMEs to help address interoperability challenges in a dynamic Industry 4.0 operating environment.
  • Form an Iowa OEM Advisory Council to advise, counsel, and support supply chain SMEs in adopting Manufacturing 4.0 technologies.
  • Collaborate to scale Manufacturing 4.0 training/re-training.

The 120-page plan notes the disruptive nature of current manufacturing technologies, which frequently are referred to collectively as the fourth industrial revolution or “Industry 4.0.” Use of those technologies is wide spread and growing – both globally and here in Iowa. As a result, the plan notes, “to remain competitive, Iowa manufacturers need to embrace and adopt new technologies.”

However, that level of change “poses significant challenges, particularly for small- and mid-sized manufacturers facing costly technology purchases, planning for integration in ongoing operations, seeing limited digital expertise in their current workforce, and phasing out or reconfiguring legacy IT systems to prepare for new interoperability requirements.”

The plan cites CIRAS as “a key partner, serving a vital need for directly assisting manufacturers and demonstrating Manufacturing 4.0 technologies in its new Digital Manufacturing Lab.”

Mike O’Donnell, program director of the CIRAS Manufacturing Extension Partnership, said he is excited both about the path charted by Iowa’s Manufacturing 4.0 plan and for the part CIRAS will play making it happen.

“This is why we exist,” O’Donnell said. “CIRAS helps Iowa companies make the changes they need to prosper and grow. The Manufacturing 4.0 Initiative can only accelerate that effort.”

Iowa State University’s Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy opened in September 2019 as part of an effort to reduce the risks faced by Iowa manufacturers when it comes to adopting new technologies. Companies exploring new technologies can test them out in a controlled setting and confirm they’ll work for specific company needs before risking any investment.

One of the ways CIRAS does this is by partnering with multiple Iowa technology companies, who help provide equipment for the lab and help educate companies about the capabilities of specific machines. Hank Norem, president of Ramco Innovations, a CIRAS technology partner, said his company has enjoyed working with CIRAS to help companies who know they need to change.

“A lot of companies are looking at this technology, but they’re not adopting it yet,” Norem said. “Working together with CIRAS, we can continue to educate companies … and hopefully make them stronger in the long run.”

To read the Manufacturing 4.0 Initiative, click here for the full version or here for an executive summary. For assistance implementing Industry 4.0 in your business, contact Shankar Srinivasan at