Breaking down barriers - Bottom-line Automation
Wonderware is holding its North American WonderWorld 2007 Conference in Las Vegas this week. Yesterday morning, Dr. Peter Martin of Invensys Process Systems gave another insightful keynote address to more than 780 attendees. It's no wonder that Fortune Magazine has coined Peter the "U.S. Hero of Manufacturing." I'm losing count of the number of times that I've heard Peter speak at various automation industry events. But I never get tired of hearing his engaging combination of insight and humor.
Peter's keynote again focused on empowering strategic business and operational excellence. Translation - maximizing asset utilization and availability, and not only equipment assets, but material, energy, and most of all, people. It's imperative that all manufacturing facilities improve operations to stay competitive in this global market.
Where we are and how we got here
It all started with the irrational investment strategies of many people in the 1990s. Previously, executives could rely on long-term capital investments. But, suddenly people began investing for short term gains by buying and selling shares monthly, weekly or even daily. Company executives no longer had the long-term capital they relied on, and boards of directors started overlooking the executives' decisions. So, executives did what they could to attack costs by downsizing IT and engineering groups. You see, these two groups are typically viewed as liabilities.
Many facilities have invested millions of dollars in automation infrastructure, but few have been able to leverage those systems to improve bottom lines. Why? Because they don't have visibility of how process or production values relate to real dollars. And it's not because the technology doesn't exist. It does. It's because operational groups within companies just don't get along and, as a result, they don't collaborate.
What do we do?
The reality is that the IT and engineering groups can add the most value to the bottom line, if they can collaborate with other organizational groups.
The problem is people and organizations have been molded over the past few decades to think a certain way. People went to college to earn very specialized degrees. For example, accountants don't understand engineers and engineers don't understand accountants. They are islands of organizations within many companies. Historically, the laborers and operators were uneducated. Today most of them have some sort of college degree. But, we haven't changed how we design systems. Engineers don't want to give operators access to too much because they think operators might break something. We have suppressed the people who possibly understand how the plant actually operates better than anyone else.
We need to convert the laborers and operators into automation craftsman, information craftsman and subsequently, business craftsman. Give them a dashboard so they can make better decisions based on process values that affect the bottom line.
Peter ended his keynote with a challenge for each and every automation/IT professional in the manufacturing sector. Transform your mindset. Shift from a technology focus to a business focus. Rather than specialize, collaborate with other organizational groups. Convert laborers to performance managers. Wonderware's message was they have the tools to help you achieve operational excellence. Peter claims that companies who have been able to pull off this transformation have seen ROI in a matter of weeks. Break down the barriers in your organization.
Do you want to hear more from Peter? Read his book Bottom-Line Automation, available from ISA.
Enjoy the rest of this Automation Weekly!
Vice President, Publisher