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RPI’s ProCourse in Smart Manufacturing Informational Video


Transcription Details: RPI’s ProCourse in Smart Manufacturing Informational Video

Date: November, 16, 2023


  • Aric W. Krause, Ph.D., Dean, Rensselaer at Work
  • Michael Hughes, Ph.D., Director of Faculty Development, Rensselaer at Work
  • Susan Riello, EdD, Director of Instructional Design, Rensselaer at Work
  • Bonnie Blumer, M.S., O.D., Director of Partnerships, Rensselaer at Work
  • Jim Wetzel, Instructor/Mentor, Rensselaer at Work


00:00 Bonnie Blumer

Thank you for joining Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this afternoon.

We are going to record this event for those who are unable to join us, but we'll be sure to discontinue the recording during the Q&A segment at the end. Let's get the recording started and I want to thank you again for joining us today. I am Bonnie Blumer, I'm a member of the leadership team for Rensselaer at work and I'm responsible for employer partnerships and promotion.

Also in the room are two other leaders from the team. We have Susan Riello here with us, she is the Director of Instructional Design, and is responsible for Rensselaer at Work’s learning platform and student engagement systems.

Our colleague, Michael Hughes, is also here with us. Michael is the Director of Faculty Development and a professor and advisor in our programs. Michael also works closely with RPI academic centers across campus. As well as outside constituencies associations like CESMII, the Smart Manufacturing Institute, to produce courses like the one we're reviewing today.

A point of pride for RPI, we have the instructor and mentor of the course, Jim Wessel here with us. Jim is a nationally recognized subject matter expert in smart manufacturing. A couple of things that you need to know about Jim. He has decades of experience leading technical mastery across all things manufacturing, with an emphasis in developing teams that produce state of the art approaches to their work, all while aligning efforts with the organization's vision and goals. What we would all like to see, right?

Today, Jim is going to walk us through the course. Susan will provide a tour of the learning platform, and Michael will join her to highlight the course participant experience.

And again, if you have any questions, we'll have some Q&A at the end. Simply put your questions in the chat feature, and our team will share them with the presenters later on.

Let's start from the top. Michael Hughes, do you want to describe high level context for the course first?


02:26 Michael Hughes

Sure, absolutely Bonnie. What really brings us here today is an amazing partnership across the United States. It starts with the US’s commitment to manufacturing in the United States with the manufacturing U.S.A. series of institutes.

The one that's really responsible for being the voice of smart manufacturing in the United States is CESMII. RPI's partnership with CESMII is founded in a in a long term appreciation, education, and tie in between RPI and the manufacturing community.

RPI has hosted many advanced manufacturing centers and currently has one of CESMII’s smart manufacturing innovation centers located on its campus.

Similar to what RPI and Rensselaer at Work do, CESMII really has this mentality in terms of its workforce development of learning by doing. In this course, you're not going to be sitting and watching movies and videos. You're going to be directly participating in and working with CESMII’s Smart Manufacturing Acceleration roadmap framework, with expert mentorship from the one and only Jim Wetzel, who is the former CEO of CESMII.

Without much further ado, I think it's time to hear from our guest of honor and faculty mentor for the course, Jim Wetzel.


03:57 Jim Wetzel

Thanks, Michael.  I'm just super pleased to be able to talk to you about this ProCourse, and this collaboration with RPI on trying to really help manufacturers figure out their digital and smart manufacturing journey. One of the things we found out over the last decade, as we've been working on smart manufacturing, is that a huge gap that most organizations have is they have no plan.

This course is really geared around bringing your situation to the table, and then ultimately developing your plan to move forward. The recipe is your recipe.

The kinds of things that we'll talk about and go through in this course is figuring out what your vision strategy, and ultimately plan is to accomplish your business objectives. How we can take advantage of those that have gone before you and learn best practices and experiences. Ultimately, to take advantage of the CESMII acceleration framework to help guide us through this process of figuring out where you want to go and what your true North looks like. We'll go through an exercise of figuring out your current state, we'll figure out your future state. We'll go into your opportunities, but ultimately, a road map will be created.

What you have on the screen right here is an example of the current to future state survey and assessment process. The course will get into this using your project, your company, it'll be all about your data. I'll guide you through how to use some of these tools.

CESMII has created this maturity model with 6 dimensions of the critical areas of smart manufacturing. The Orange dots represent your current state. That will be assessed and figured out for your organization.

The green dots represent your future state or true North. But we don't end there. The really big prize in this equation is what's really behind the blue arrows. The blue arrows actually is the road map.

So if you could advance to the next slide.

A lot of the processes and a lot of the courses that you see might really talk about assessment only.

Quite frankly, just assessing where you are doesn't really help you achieve the goal of where you want to go and line that up with your business objectives. What's unique about this course and about the acceleration framework tools from CESMII is we're combining the current state, the future state, the opportunities and gaps, and the business objectives that you want to hit all into what you see on the screen right here is really around the roadmap to get there.

In a one in a one slide show, we can actually say, what are your business objectives? How would those 6 dimensions of smart manufacturing actually support and drive you towards an outcome that you desire?

And then how would you structure your programs, your portfolio, your initiatives, your projects to drive business value? And how much would that business impact and value be?

And then just as important as all of that. What should I do now?

What should I do next? What should I do in my future? When you come out of the course, you're going to actually have a game plan.

What we've seen is that the percentage of failure when folks just try to act without a plan is really high. Somewhere, 70% to 90% of projects that are kicked off don't hit their objectives. The number one failure mode for projects not hitting their objectives is failure to plan.

Not having a plan that's aligned to the business objectives of the organization, not getting sponsorship, and having too much conflict in the organization will not allow that project to be a business success. Even though it may be a technical success.

This roadmap is really critical to do.

We cap off the course with each student actually developing their roadmap for their organization and presenting it to the class. We actually extended this ProCourse one week after our first session that we did earlier this summer.

We extended it to give the students an opportunity to present back to the rest of the students. So again, I am super excited about this. I think we put together an awesome opportunity to engage with your organization and move it forward.

My role, I think Michael talked about it, is a coach and mentor. I'm not your teacher.

I am your partner in collaboration, in facilitating you through this process that I think will have a huge impact.

I'd like to turn it over to Susan, who's been my partner in crime on this, and she's going to talk to you a little bit about what that infrastructure looks like and how it comes to you.


09:23 Susan Riello

Thank you so much, Jim.

Like Jim said, I'm going to take you in and show you a little bit of what the RensselaerStudio looks like. That's the digital classroom environment where participants will access the content that Jim and Michael have spoken about. The RensselaerStudio is designed to be this sort of one stop shop, if you will, to access all of the content and resources and links that students will need.

I'm just going to minimize this presentation briefly and take you into my browser here. This is the homepage of what the course looks like. When participants first access this homepage, they'll see a little bit of introductory information at the top. Your course, walkthrough video, to give them a sense of the navigation.

Then down below we have the synchronous session schedule. In this course, and our other ProCourses, participants will have the opportunity to engage directly with their mentor, Jim, and with their peers to ask questions, dive deeper into the content and do interactive activities.

For this course the session will be on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 pm Eastern Time, but for those who can’t attend we always record them and post them within 24 hours. If you can't attend, don't let that be a barrier.

You'll see on the left-hand side here we also have some navigational links. We have our announcements. We have a syllabus area with a schedule and with some other policy information. I'm going to skip the modules for one second and go back to it.

The Resource library has a link to a suite of resources that will help guide the participants experience. Then we have more information about RPI and our programs as well.

To go back to the modules area. This is where all the learning for the course really takes place. I want to take you in and show you briefly what that looks like.

So here on the modules page, you'll see the learning journey that Jim described is organized into a series of stages that scaffold and build on each other. On this page you'll see that we have deadlines to keep participants on track, we have some queues for what they're supposed to do with each page, either view or submit, and a way to sort of keep track on the right hand side as well.

And as you can see here, our module starts with a start your journey section. Just to show you what that looks like a little bit, we present learners with a scenario to start off, kind of mirroring what Jim and Michael had mentioned about how this course really takes shape.

They start by considering their organization's current state. Then they imagine the future state on the other step right hand side here, and then to Jim's earlier point, it's really about charting that course throughout that road mapping stage to get to the future state.

Then we present learners with a challenge that provides a little bit more context about what they'll be doing throughout the course. And then, when they're ready to actually engage with the content, we provide an approach section for each of our stages. Then in the approach section, you'll see that we have specific instructions that really are meant to guide them through creating their deliverable.

We have links to learning resources and other materials that will help them along the way.

Just to show you what one of them looks like, this is a link to our Learning Resource library for the Smart Manufacturing Acceleration Framework, and these resources were developed in very close collaboration with Jim, and with CESMII.

This one particular here has a page for each of the steps within that, or phases within the Acceleration Framework.

This section of the library is mirrors. Very similarly, the other resources. We have an introduction section for each of them. We get into some notes, and then in the in-depth explanation area we will provide images, templates, videos, other resources, and sometimes self-check evaluations and interactive activities that will really give you an opportunity to dive deeper into the content and kind of build your skills inside of the course.

One more thing I wanted to mention about the RensselaerStudio here is that along with each of our deliverables we provide a rubric, and the rubrics closely align with the learning objectives that form the foundation of the course, and they actually provide an opportunity for Jim to provide direct feedback on each of these areas for participants to review.

One more note on the feedback. I think we've talked a little bit about how our method is untraditional in the sense that Jim is more of your coach and your mentor, and it's really a collaboration.

In terms of grades, we do have a typical sort of grades button that people can access their progress and see their feedback.

But our traditional kind of view of grades is really de-emphasized for our programs. It's really about the opportunity to dive deeply into the content, bring it back to your organizational context and then develop that strategy to eventually execute that roadmap with Jim's assistance.

I’m going to actually pass it back to my colleague, Michael Hughes, who's going to talk a little bit more about the features of our model that are designed to benefit learners.


14:21 Michael Hughes

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for that beautiful tour Susan, as I hope everyone saw. Everything you need is right there at your fingertips, which is fantastic, and will never ask you to buy a textbook or flip to chapter 12, or scan something and send it into us. Everything is right there for you.

If there's one thing that Michael Hughes would like for you to take away today. It's that this isn't an experience where you're going to just do the same thing as everyone else. And what I mean by that is, although you all will be interacting with CESMII’s Smart Manufacturing Acceleration Framework, it's going to be for your organization or the challenges and opportunities that exist within your organization, and your plan is going to be yours.

So while everyone will be using the Smart Manufacturing Acceleration Framework, you're really going to get a custom outcome by having the coaching and mentorship and interaction you have will have with Jim, as well as being able to experience what everyone else's customized plan and experiences like.

We're able to facilitate that in a couple of ways. One you get to interact with your amazing faculty Mentor, Jim Wetzel. As you can tell, we're all bit fond of Jim. He does a fantastic job in leading and coaching and mentoring folks in these courses. Every week or so you'll have the ability to connect. What Susan referred to as the synchronous session. So these are a time where you get to have one on one time with Jim to review. Maybe some of those challenging things to say, hey, this doesn't really make sense to me, Jim, can you help me kind of figure this out because I don't see how it works. Or you can say, Hey, Jim, that doesn't work in my organization, and you'll be able to have that conversation with him and the other folks in the class, and you'll get that every week and if you're unable to attend, as Susan said, it's recorded so you can come back to it and view it at a later time.

In addition to these synchronous sessions where you're one on one with Jim and the rest of the class, and having all these materials that are at your fingertips. The other thing that you'll be able to do is you'll be able to email Jim and say, Hey, Jim, I'm working through this thing, and I just need some help. Can you help me? And so you can work one on one with Jim over zoom in off times.

He'll set up times with you to help mentor and coach you through these experiences. I know that just in debriefing with Jim in the last class, he had lots of these with folks, and some of the most valuable conversations come out of those because he can really get to understand you and your organization better.

So that one-on-one coaching, that customize experience when you get to interact with them is another huge benefit and differentiator of this experience that you won't just receive in this ProCourse, but what you will receive in all Rensselaer at Work courses.

Lastly, when you complete, you'll be able to show off what you've done with an RPI certificate of completion, you can share that on LinkedIn, or share it on other social media platforms. Put it on your resume to attest to this experience that you've gone through, and the abilities and skills that you've gained over this period, and being able to work with Jim.

With that, I'll pass it back over to my colleague Bonnie. Who can kind of wrap things up for us.


17:45 Bonnie Blumer

Thank you, Michael. Well, we're so pleased to have organization leaders in the room with us here today, and we want to talk a little bit about the sponsoring employer benefits.

Let's talk about how participants in the course can move their organization forward because we know developing solutions for your challenges at work are better made by those who get the work done.

Imagine sponsoring a team to this ProCourse will improve productivity, develop greater collaboration and thought leadership all from within the heart and soul of your organization.

Now, the overall goal of this course is to accelerate the results you need to make happen sooner than later. The next course starts Monday, January 22nd. It's coming up sooner than we all want to admit, and it ends on February 24th.

The fee for each participant is $899, and we have the registration open. We are taking registrations now. We'll share this presentation and the link that you see in a follow-up email, so you all have availability to register for the course.

Keep in mind that the seats in the course are limited. We want to be sure that Jim can provide that guidance and mentorship to the participants in the course. We do keep the enrollment at a level that allows him to go deep with those who are in it.

Before we get to Q&A. I want to ask Jim, you and I have had a conversation around what you're seeing in the course and how teams of people are able to collaborate from within the same operation, or imagining teams represented from different factions within an organization. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?


19:52 Jim Wetzel

I should have probably mentioned this when I was going over the course framework. But what we've seen so far is that there's a ton of benefit as an individual contributor to come in and help develop strategy for your organization, and that's fine, and you'll get a lot of benefit from that.

The last session that we just finished up here recently, we had multiple people from the same organization. When Michael, Susan and I put this content together, we envisioned that that companies would send teams of people.

You think about the ability for one individual to be knowledgeable about how to drive, change and kind of push that message or push that rope in some cases versus pulling it.

Versus an entire team kind of getting the religion of what this means and what this digital transformation could mean for their organization. In our last course, we actually had 2 companies that sent multiple folks to the to the session. They did their homework together. All of the alignment issues, the topics of agreement and objectives and opportunities is a very rich conversation when multiple people of your organization are involved. So yes, individuals are certainly welcome, and teams are certainly welcome.

As a coach and mentor certainly able to flex on dealing with you, one on one, or dealing with you, one on many and so I think it's exciting to think about that as a as another option. Thanks for bringing that up, Bonnie.


21:38 Bonnie Blumer

Absolutely. Thank you, Jim. Okay, so I'm imagining that there are people in the room with questions about the course, maybe about Jim, or about how this may complement the work that you're doing so feel free to use that chat feature and put your questions there. Our team will manage sharing that with the panel.

Before we stop the recording, I'm going to take this opportunity to thank you. Thank you all for your interest in RPI and in the ProCourse, and a special thank you to Jim Wetzel for your industry expertise.

Know that as you participate in this course, and as you sponsor teams to participate in in this course, your success is our success. The fuel of our work here is sharing that journey with you. Let's turn it to Q&A.

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