Manufacturing Integration - Critical Competitive Factor |

Manufacturing Integration - Critical Competitive Factor

April 172012
Manufacturing Integration - Critical Competitive Factor
Learn about new technologies at Industrial Automation North America
April 2012
By Bill Lydon, Editor
The holistic integration from sensor to enterprise for manufacturing to be more competitive requires industrial automation technology that can create linkages to enterprise business systems. Automation investments increase profits, improve quality, and reduce risks. But simply using machines with standalone automation to make products is not enough to be competitive and responsive to customers. The next big shift to improve manufacturing effectiveness is automation to achieve holistic integration of the entire plant by linking and orchestrating many functions including workflow, supply chain, orders, and plant floor operations. This is now possible due to technical advances and lower cost of automation to integrate information and control across the enterprise including machine tools, processes, quality, mobile operators, enterprise business systems and supply chain partners.
This year the Industrial Automation North America (IANA) Show, held in conjunction with the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2012, adds the dimension of the digital factory to the event. The IANA Show has been conceived and implemented by Deutsche Messe, well known for their annual Hannover Fair that brings a world view to this event.  "It is a very exciting time for innovation in manufacturing and the timing of HANNOVER MESSE’s introduction of an industrial fair into North America is excellent," said Erik Syme, Strategic Product Marketing Manager-Protocols of ProSoft Technology. "We know a lot of U.S. manufacturers are looking to improve control and process effectiveness and expect visitors at IANA will be looking for the right technologies to achieve better manufacturing integration."
Deutsche Messe manages 100 trade fairs and exhibitions in Germany and abroad every year, involving more than 36,000 exhibitors and 3 million visitors from over 100 different countries.  The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) was traditionally a machine equipment trade show but has necessarily broadened focus to be responsive to new manufacturing realities. The IANA and IMTS will occur on September 10-15, 2012 at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL. The IANA exhibitors will showcase all areas of industrial automation providing operating examples and insights into integration with the purpose of being more competitive. Attendees have the opportunity to explore solutions and meet with automation experts to discuss their applications and challenges.
Escape the Velvet Rut
The survival of manufacturing companies will require new business models including holistic integration to respond to customer demands for high quality and “make to order” product delivery implemented with flexible manufacturing.   Integration requires manufacturers to understand what is possible and rethink how they can better serve customers.   The challenge with adopting new technology is learning about it, identifying applications, and educating people in the company about the value of investing in it.    It is important to open ourselves to new ideas to see what is possible rather than remaining in the comfortable “velvet rut” of what is being done today.   Are we spending enough time considering the application of new technologies to improve production operations or simply living with the status quo?
The integration of manufacturing and business systems has been a labor intensive task in the past. The good news is that industrial automation technologies have advanced dramatically in the last few years to support highly integrated manufacturing without building “one off” custom systems. These advances lower initial investment and ongoing operating cost while being easier to implement and use. This is because of recent dramatic advances in technology including high power, lower cost computer chips, improved software, simulation software, advanced sensors, lower cost machine to machine networking, mechatronics, and new industry standards.
Manufacturing Challenge
It is easy to become complacent and stay with what you are doing today. Competition is subtle, and we are prone to simplify. What we learn from looking at competition is that winning companies are always looking for ways to improve. It is important to accept the concept that manufacturing needs to change and always be exploring what is possible based on new developments and imagine different scenarios, and try to avoid being taken by surprise. It is particularly important to do this before your competitor does and steals your customers. Consider these questions:
  • Have you refined your manufacturing technology as much as your competitors?
  • Is your company the most profitable in your industry?
Manufacturers do not need to necessarily restructure their entire manufacturing operations all at once, but can look for leverage points making strategic changes over time.
“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.” Peter F. Drucker
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