News & Content: Member Blog

ITA Spotlight: DMDII

Friday, July 13, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gary Hotze
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DMDII equips U.S. manufacturers with the digital tools and expertise they need to begin building every part better than the last. As a result, our more than 300 partners increase their productivity and win more business.


Kym Wehrle, Operations Director, DMDII (Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation)

In 25 words or less, what is DMDII all about?

DMDII’s mission is to enable U.S. manufacturers to make every single part better than the last. It is a goal far too big for any one company to solve on its own.
It requires production lines to be embedded with the Internet (software and sensors). Only with this ability to send and receive data can the equipment improve itself and learn from every part produced in real-time.

What problem do you solve and how do you address it better than the competition?

 The most lucrative opportunities of the future will involve digital manufacturing — predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, etc. And our more than 320 members fly into Chicago from across the country to identify problems in these areas worth solving and begin solving them using our proven methodology. For instance, Deere, Boeing, Iowa State, Purdue and small augmented reality companies are teaming up to more easily create work instructions that are projected on tablets or safety glasses, so workers don’t have to consult paper manuals.

How did you get started?

The Defense Department founded us and funds us. Through us, they equip their contractors — who make everything from fighter jets to submarines — with the most advanced manufacturing technology in the world. We are one of 14 Manufacturing USA Institutes, modeled after Germany’s Fraunhofer Institutes and launched by the Obama Administration to improve manufacturing competitiveness. Each institute has a unique research concentration, from lightweight metals to sensors. 

How has your company culture evolved as DMDII has grown?

As our organization has grown, we’ve become very much team-centric.  We need to work together as each contribution built together provides a value higher than one person could produce on their own.

What are your primary goals for DMDII? 

1. Accelerate the adoption of digital manufacturing technologies to improve U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. 

2. To shore up a significant industry weakness: Cyber-security and the supply chain. Thirty-five percent of all cyber-espionage attacks in the U.S. occur in the manufacturing sector, the most substantial amount of any single segment, according to the 2017 Verizon data breach investigation report. And as manufacturing goes digital, that attack surface only expands. To that end, we’ve just launched a new National Center for Cybersecurity in Manufacturing with the Department of Defense.

Where do you see DMDII in two years? Five? Ten?

We’ll be the place where manufacturers have to go to forge their futures. That means our more than 300 partners will become 3,000 partners.

What’s the No. 1 thing on your to-do list?

Working on building an agenda for a visit from leaders of the National Shipbuilding Research Program. It’s a national consortium of shipbuilders, who are visiting DMDII to learn how to better incorporate software and sensors — and other digital technology — into their manufacturing processes.  

In your opinion, what are some of the pros and cons of being an Illinois business?

Because our focus is manufacturing, there is no better place to be than the center of the country. We’re surrounded by both manufacturing behemoths — our members include Caterpillar, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, etc. — and startups, such as Tulip, Scope AR and UpSkill.

The only con I can think of is that we’re pretty far removed from Washington, D.C., and our primary funder, the Pentagon. We’d love to see more defense contractors set up shop in Chicago. 


What are the most significant challenges you face as you scale your business?

Bandwidth! As buzzwords like Industry 4.0, Advanced Manufacturing and IoT become more prevalent in boardroom conversations, more and more organizations realize they need to understand what those terms mean for them. As awareness has increased so has the need for DMDII, and balancing our members’ needs with internal resources can be challenging at times.

This one is all you. Anything else you want to tell us?

We headquarter in a 100,000-square-foot innovation center in a former window factory near downtown Chicago. On-site, we run the McKinsey Capabilities Center and the Future Factory. Both are live, operating examples of a digitally-enabled manufacturing floor. One builds a refrigerator compressor, the other a Stanley Black & Decker impact driver. We love giving tours. If you haven’t toured our factory floor, email to set up a time to do so.

Get in touch

20 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 1200
Chicago, IL 60606

PH: 1.312.435.2805