Research Focus

Dr. Ramy Harik

Professor of Mechanical Engineering
University of South Carolina

Dr. Ramy Harik is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Carolina. He received his Ph.D. in Industrial and Mechanical Engineering from the Université de Lorraine. Dr. Harik is the Principal Investigator of an NSF EPSCoR Track-2 award titled “RII Track-2 FEC: Enabling Factory to Factory (F2F) Networking for Future Manufacturing”. The awarded Track-2 project includes a collaboration between the University of South Carolina and West Virginia University. Cyber infrastructure and artificial intelligence (AI) are core components of smart manufacturing. To drive radical transformation of industry, factories must securely expand beyond their physical boundaries. These Future Factories (FF) consume and create interdisciplinary knowledge along with the ability to forge innovative technological transformations. The Track-2 project aims to produce advanced smart manufacturing technologies and an educated upskilled workforce.

During the past century, the United States transitioned from being the foremost autonomous and interconnected manufacturer to becoming heavily reliant on other nations. This shift presents genuine risks and obstacles for the manufacturing industry. The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) conducted research highlighting key components, rooted in Industry 4.0, that are necessary to improve manufacturing and increase efficiency. These include optimized processes, improved asset utilization, better supply chain management, and more efficient inventory practices, among other factors. In particular, South Carolina has undergone in the past decade unprecedented growth in its manufacturing sector, largely due to the implementation of robust incentive programs aimed at attracting new businesses or expanding existing ones within the state. Today, South Carolina is widely recognized as an export-oriented state with a strong presence in the transportation manufacturing industry, boasting major players like Boeing, BMW, Mercedes, and Volvo. However, the state is also gaining prominence in other sectors such as electrical vehicles, industrial machinery, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals, and has recently attracted the attention of global giants like Samsung, Toray, and Michelin. Manufacturing currently provides employment for more than 30 percent of the state’s workforce, forming the backbone of its economy. With an estimated annual economic impact of $200 billion, manufacturing is a key contributor to both employment and GDP across South Carolina.

Researchers at the University of South Carolina’s neXt (new and emerging X technologies) team, led by Dr. Harik, are working on a centralized and standardized approach to unlocking the next generation discoveries and talent in advanced manufacturing for South Carolina and the United States. The advent of Industry 4.0 is bringing about a shift in manufacturing, moving from automated systems based on robotics and numerical control to autonomous systems that integrate cyber-physical systems. This integration enables remote control and monitoring and allows for the automation of the work knowledge domain and is the basis for Smart Manufacturing. The latter involves the integration of both Operational Technologies (OT) and Information Technologies (IT). The convergence of these two fields requires a secure and resilient cyber infrastructure.

Future Factories Digital Twin

Future Factories are autonomous factories equipped with cyber, physical, and data infrastructure that enables Smart Manufacturing and leverages opportunities outlined in the MGI study. The use of Artificial Intelligence is essential in unlocking several opportunities in manufacturing. With the help of AI advancements, a future can be envisioned where autonomous systems have their digital twins for products, equipment, and processes. AI can optimize the performance of these systems through two-way communication with their digital twins. AI-driven Future Manufacturing is characterized by the integration of AI into decision-making and optimization processes in the Manufacturing Domain.

The Future Factories platform at USC brought together various partnerships and industrial stakeholders to establish the foundation necessary for this advancement. Dr. Harik and his team built the infrastructure needed for an autonomous facility and are conducting research to push forward industrial innovation.