Fred Cartwright is chief executive officer of Conexus Indiana, the state’s advanced manufacturing initiative. (photo provided)

Nine months have passed since Fred Cartwright was named chief executive officer of Conexus Indiana, the state’s initiative that focuses on strengthening Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industries. Once describing it as, “like drinking from a firehouse,” the former auto manufacturing executive says he continues to learn and look for ways to help steer Indiana manufacturers to be more competitive in next generation technology. “And what that means, specifically, is to improve the rate of digital adoption, Industry 4.0 adoption in the state through manufacturers, as well as helping on the talent situation.”

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Cartwright said talent attraction and retention is challenging, which puts even more emphasis on building homegrown talent.

“This is the biggest, single biggest issue,” said Cartwright. “We’ve got to do more in K through 12, secondary education, post-secondary aligned with that, but also our role here is to is to draw our educational institutions closer to what industries needs are.”

Click below to listen to more of the Cartwright interview with IIB reporter Wes Mills

Cartwright says some Indiana companies have “hundreds and hundreds” of openings available. He says they need to find creative ways to attract talent.

“How do you fill that pipeline with kids that are interested in STEM related topics, to post-secondary education, that’s a big deal,” wondered Cartwright.

Last week, Conexus helped celebrate the opening of a new manufacturing skills lab at The Crossing School of Business & Entrepreneurship in Frankfort. The center will use curriculum and equipment provided by Catapult Indiana, a career training program developed by Conexus.

Cartwright brings about four decades of auto industry experience to Conexus, with much of his career focusing on advanced technologies and innovation.

He graduated from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering and from Butler University with a master’s degree in business administration. Cartwright began his career with Indianapolis-based Allison Transmission Inc. (NYSE: ALSN). He later moved to General Motors (NYSE: GM), holding positions in Detroit and Europe.

“It’s exciting to work in manufacturing, and a lot of kids, especially, don’t know that much about it,” said Cartwright. “And just the variety of opportunities you have, there’s nothing like it. This state is leading the way in terms of just manufacturing intensity.”

In December, Conexus released the results of a study that examined the adoption of next generation technologies by Indiana manufacturers. It shows more than 40% have implemented Industry 4.0 technology, including cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence.

The study also shows 94% of the respondents that received Indiana Manufacturing Readiness Grants were able to accelerate or expand technology at their companies because of the funding.
Cartwright says small and mid-sized manufacturers are taking advantage of the state funding.

“And that has been well beyond what we could have imagined,” said Cartwright. “Over 200 companies pushing up close to $20 million in total investment in Industry 4.0, and that’s just scratching the surface of what’s going to happen in the state.”