How Manufacturing Clouds, AI, and Digital Twins Are Redefining the Industry – Acceleration Economy

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In Episode 14 of Acceleration Economy’s Growth Swarm podcast, John Siefert, Bob Evans, Tony Uphoff, and Scott Vaughan discuss the growth of the massive manufacturing industry and why cloud companies want a part of it, as well how technology — everything from digital twins and the Metaverse to AI and image recognition — accelerates this growth.


00:01 — Acceleration Economy Co-Founder John Siefert welcomes viewers to another edition of the Growth Swarm podcast and introduces 3xCMO Scott Vaughan, 4xCEO Tony Uphoff, and Cloud Wars Founder Bob Evans.

00:46Industry Cloud Battleground focuses on industry-specific clouds. John tees up today’s discussion on the manufacturing cloud and the alignment of IT and OT.

02:30 — Tony, who recently penned a story on industry cloud’s rise and served as CEO of leading manufacturing sourcing platform Thomasnet, summarizes the reasons why there is so much interest in manufacturing on the part of cloud companies. “There are only so many markets that are over $3 trillion in value,” he says of the massive manufacturing market.

03:27 — Though many assume all manufacturing occurs offshore, manufacturing as an industry is growing both in the U.S. and North America at large. This is due in large part to advances in technology that makes lean and sustainable “reshoring” of manufacturing by both U.S. and international companies a reality.

04:29 — Tony cites some data to drive the point home: July’s job report shows 528,000 new jobs, with manufacturing supplying the majority of these openings. Demand in the last quarter for core inputs such as aluminum and steel, and services like machining and automation, is up. Interestingly, “food manufacturing is absolutely booming right now,” Tony adds. Cloud providers coming in and providing advanced technologies is what is helping accelerate the growth in manufacturing.

05:38 — John references Goya Foods CIO Suvajit Basu’s comments at June’s Cloud Wars Expo on the food and distribution company’s use of best-of-breed, multi-cloud tech to deliver advances in everything from the supply chain to the distribution chain.

06:37 — There’s been a lot of talk about digital twins in the manufacturing cloud space, but what are they? John cites some recent articles by manufacturing CIO and Acceleration Economy analyst Kenny Mullican on digital twins, which describes them as combinations of multiple enabling technologies — sensors, advanced analytics, cloud computing, AI, AR, VR, mixed reality — that companies can combine in custom ways depending their needs.

07:15 — What distinguishes digital twins and makes them so powerful is their ability to emulate human capabilities, which facilitates faster and better decision-making, since something that is captured by a digital twin will then automatically get updated in the physical world, says John.

07:47 — Bob recalls U.C. Berkeley Professor Luyi Yang‘s comments at Cloud Wars Expo on the siloed data between marketing and manufacturing departments, and why that needs to change. “Leaders of companies are going to sweep away the clutter,” he says.

09:40 — John examines the connection between consumer demand and manufacturing operations, and how challenging it is, especially now, to forecast accurately and get the balance right. John asks Acceleration Economy’s “go-to-market expert” Scott to give his perspective on the alignment between demand creation and demand fulfillment in the context of the manufacturing industry.

10:46 — Scott says manufacturing is being redefined in part by AI and machine learning. Scott touches on the role of co-creation in the industry, and how it’s leading to all kinds of new goods and services. “It’s putting a lot more potential and reimagination of what is manufacturing,” he says.

11:45 — “When you co-create, you have to go to market together and do things that are different,” Scott says. This will lead to a sea change in terms of breaking down silos among supply chain, distribution, marketing, and sales in traditional manufacturing environments. “I think the playing field is going to shift.”

12:38 — Bob says the ability of leadership to tear down outdated silos within their operations is crucial in today’s environment. Otherwise, “they will sink your company.”

13:14 — Tony details selling Thomasnet to Zometry and the growing importance of connecting demand directly with supply through data.

14: 56 — In reference to digital twins, Tony cites the example of how a jet engine manufacturer now takes in more real-time data than the pilot of an airplane, and is able to simulate maintenance and repair for that individual engine and future versions of that engine via digital twin technology.

15:50 — What role will the Metaverse play within a manufacturing, not to mention digital twin, context? John examines how technology enables more seamless business operations and decentralizes intelligence.

17:05 — John references fellow Acceleration Economy analyst Ronak Mathur, and his recent analysis on how image recognition technology is changing the game for manufacturers, allowing them to automate quality control and process control in assembly line or factory scenarios.

18:14 — Scott discusses co-creating in the Metaverse through shared data.

19:27 — Tony cites Formula 1 driving simulators as a prime example of Metaverse training capabilities, and imagines similar applications in other industries.

20:53 — Scott and Tony detail the enormous manufacturing component of tech giants like Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft.

22:05 — Bob references ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott, who recently reported his company’s estimation of how many business applications will be written in the next two years from 500 million to 750 million, roughly 1 million new applications per day.

23:08 — John wraps the discussion with analyses of the “intranet” and “extranet” concepts from many years ago and how it’s become the premise for Web3.

24:41 — The episode concludes with a note on the cloud industry’s impact as the “reimagination machine.”

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