How design-centered manufacturing is transforming Industry 4.0—and the 2020 CMAs

By Bart Taylor | Sep 09, 2019

There was a time when American manufacturing's most effective promotion was products Made in the U.S.A. Today, products designed in the U.S. but made offshore tend to capture the imagination of consumers. "I design it, you build it" is still a rule of thumb for industrial designers, and the build is often "over the wall" offshore.

But the rules are changing, and growth industries of the West are at the center of a broad transformation. Powered by new technologies like 3D printing and software-enabled machining, designers increasingly control the means of production.

The trend promises to alleviate challenges at the center of America's manufacturing conundrum. Prototyping at the point of design reduces iterative cycles and costs. Intellectual property is more easily managed and less exposed to overseas "partners." Parts and products also become smarter when manufacturing processes are "baked into" industrial designs.

In sum, the design-to-manufacturing continuum is narrowing. At tomorrow’s factories, tech-savvy machine operators will rub elbows with industrial designers and engineers. It's a component of Industry 4.0.

We're embracing the trend. As we launch the nomination period for the 2020 Colorado Manufacturing Awards later this month, we're pleased to announce a new category that focuses on product design and engineering as much as the build.

A new 2020 CMA category -- Innovative Product Award/Design-Centered Manufacturing -- will showcase consumer and commercial products designed for manufacture in the U.S.

Here's the criteria:

The Innovative Product Award recognizes leading-edge industrial design and engineering in a part or product manufactured locally (highest ranking) or in the U.S. (required).


  • Products must be designed or engineered in Colorado
  • Focus is on the design-to-manufacture continuum; integration of design and manufacturing processes

Products will be evaluated on:

  • Aesthetic: Leading-edge visual and aesthetic properties
  • Integration: Degree to which manufacturing considerations are incorporated in design or engineering
  • Advanced processes: Use of advanced manufacturing processes like automation, additive manufacturing, software-enabled CNC
  • Functionality: Innovative functionality, utility, and consideration of human factors: consumer popularity of the final product

Two award categories: Commercial and consumer

Nominations for the 2020 Colorado Manufacturing Awards open Tuesday, October 1 and extend through the end of 2019. Award winners will be announced in April 2020.

We’ll announce criteria for the entire slate of industry and advocacy awards later this month at a kickoff in Denver. Register here to join us Sept. 26 from 3-6 p.m. as we preview the 2020 CMAs, rally for local manuacturing, and hear from stakeholders providing key services for the manufacturing community -- all a prelude to national Manufacturing Day events, Friday October 5. Or, contact me anytime with questions.

Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Reach him at