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Smart Factory Institute, Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association Host Historic Gathering

Federal, state, and local Tennessee elected officials join over 350 manufacturing professionals at technology expo and luncheon

Contact: Elena Brennan | | 865-329-0553

Cleveland, Tenn. (August 12, 2022) – The Smart Factory Institute of Tennessee and the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association (CRMA) hosted the largest convening of manufacturers to ever occur in Bradley County, Tenn yesterday. With over 350 manufacturing professionals, technology vendors, and elected officials in attendance, the all-day event featured the Smart Solutions for Smart Factories Expo and the CRMA Manufacturers Excellence Luncheon.

It was also the inaugural event at the CONCLAVE within the new Partnerships in Industry and Education (PIE) Innovation Center, located in Cleveland, Tenn, a first-of-its-kind regional education facility providing business, industry, secondary/postsecondary educational opportunities, and nonprofit services under one roof. The Smart Factory Institute moved its headquarters to the PIE Center in May, allowing the Institute to expand its offerings in the greater Chattanooga region.

The Smart Solutions for Smart Factories Expo featured leading manufacturing technology vendors showcasing smart technologies for improved productivity, quality, reliability, and responsiveness in factory production environments. The event drew attendees and exhibitors from across the nation, with industry professionals in attendance from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Thomas Rilke, CEO of the Deutsche Messe Technology Academy, located in Hanover, Germany, was also in attendance, recognizing the Smart Factory Institute as the first Deutsche Messe industrial knowledge transfer facility in the United States.

Throughout the day, Smart Factory Strategic Technology Partners, including Igus Motion Plastics, Phoenix Contact, and Senswork Vision Systems, presented automation solutions to help drive Industry 4.0 adoption.

“Our technology partners are a crucial part of our mission here at the Smart Factory Institute,” said Mary Beth Hudson, Executive Director, Smart Factory Institute. “They are leading the charge with innovative new technologies, and we are thrilled they were able to join us at the Expo to help bridge the gap between future technology and manufacturers by promoting knowledge transfer in the fields of automation, robotics, and Industry 4.0.”

Other exhibitors at the Expo included Motorola Solutions, OnGo Alliance, Renishaw, 3DOLOGiE, Polymer Components, Veryable, Hirebotics, RCI, Lincoln Electric, University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services, Autonomy Today, SMC Pneumatics, VI Media Pros, and Embassy Suites.

During the Expo, the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association hosted their annual Manufacturers Excellence Luncheon. The Luncheon featured leading regional manufacturing companies and keynote speaker, Rusty McKee, Senior Vice President of McKee Foods Corporation, America’s Largest Family Bakery and maker of iconic brands such as Little Debbie snacks, Drake's Cakes, Fieldstone Bakery snacks and cereal, and Sunbelt Bakery granola and cereal.

McKee discussed the evolution of advanced manufacturing in the food industry and how McKee Foods is able to maintain high employee retention rates by focusing on its most important asset – its people – and how they are engaged with the company’s culture of learning and innovation.

Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Jeff McCord also addressed attendees, highlighting the importance of building a technology-focused manufacturing workforce pipeline in Tennessee, and the work the Smart Factory Institute is doing to achieve that goal.

“The Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association (CRMA) was founded in 1902 as the first local manufacturers association in the United States,” said Megan King, President and CEO, Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association. “We are proud to carry on our founders’ legacy by recognizing the essential role manufacturers provide for our communities and economies at this event.”

Tennessee local, statewide, and federal elected officials also attended the Expo and luncheon, and were given a tour of the PIE Center, which has been praised by officials as a model for training and recruiting skilled workers for the many technical, high-demand jobs of the future. Those in attendance included Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Jeff McCord, State Sen. Mike Bell, State Rep. Dan Howell, City of Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, and representatives from the Offices of Sen. Bill Hagerty, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, and Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis.

“It was an honor for so many of our public servants and community leaders to show their support for Tennessee’s hardworking manufacturers at this event,” said Denise Rice, President and CEO of Peak Performance, Inc., which operates the Smart Factory Institute. “In order for our regional manufacturers to remain competitive in an increasing global economy, investments in institutions like the Smart Factory Institute, the PIE Center, and local, state, and national manufacturing associations are critical to help usher in the adoption of smart technologies and train highly-skilled workforces of the future.”

Sponsors of the event included Astec, McKee Foods Corporation, 6 Strong Media, Duracell, Elliot Davis, Tennessee American Water, EPB, Pinnacle, TN China Network, Southern Champion Tray, WCLE Mix 104.1, and WTCI PBS.

The Smart Solutions for Smart Factories Expo is one of seven annual signature events the Smart Factory Institute hosts. Their next event, the 5G Smart Manufacturing Summit, will take place on September 22 from 9:00am-3:00pm ET at the Smart Factory Institute located in the PIE Center. The Summit will feature wireless infrastructure providers and will help manufacturers understand what 5G and private network means for their operations, what impact it will have on their productivity, and what security measures must be considered. To purchase tickets or sponsor the event, contact Mary Beth Hudson at or purchase directly online.

About Smart Factory Institute

The Smart Factory Institute is a business-driven effort guided by the Tennessee Manufacturers Association driving innovation and technology in Tennessee and the southeastern United States. The Institute, operated by Peak Performance Inc. and located at the Bradley County Partnerships in Industry and Education (PIE) Center, is an exclusive U.S. institute providing manufacturers with connections, collaborative relationships, and certifications for improving manufacturing processes by providing them with access to the latest technology in advanced manufacturing. The global network of Smart Factory Institutes by Deutsche Messe is comprised of leading companies and organizations in advanced manufacturing. For more information, visit

About Peak Performance Inc.

Peak Performance Inc. is a workforce training and consulting firm specializing in incumbent worker training for the manufacturing industry, serving businesses across the country from their headquarters in Cleveland, TN. Peak Performance equips its customers to transform their operational strategy through comprehensive, sustainable solutions in people and processes. Their services are unique, customizing the training to their client’s needs, and using real-world simulations and instructors from the manufacturing industry. For more information, visit

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