|The Internet of Things|
|Big Data and Data Analysis|
These terms and many more are being used by pundits to describe a “new” world of manufacturing. Some go so far as to use more grand terms such as the “New Age of Industrialization.” Read any industry journal and one out of every three or four articles describe a number of visions for the new environment we are entering. Some will opine we are already there while others suggest it will take five to 20 years to reach a measurable plateau.
In serving the manufacturing community with equipment and services for more than 45 years my most memorable era was Computer Integrated Manufacturing, or CIM, which came to us in the ‘70s. At that time the world embraced Materials Requirements Planning (MRP) and soon went on to MRPII or Manufacturing Resource Planning, the two terms having little in common. We next went for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Advanced Planning & Scheduling (APS). In the early ‘80s Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) were introduced, bringing a new computer information perspective to plant and department level applications. Many more plant applications came along, including Time and Attendance, Maintenance Management, Scheduling, Warehouse Management, Quality Assurance, SPC, OEE, LIMS, etc. Along the way other enterprise level systems appeared, like Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Customer Requirements Management (CRM) and Supply Chain Management (SCM).
The past 30 years have provided a plethora of answers to questions manufacturers never knew they had and have allowed huge investments in what we now call legacy applications. A Fortune 500 manufacturing company can easily have more than 4,000 data-centric applications in addition to the ERP system, which usually sets the tone for everything else IT-related.
AND NOW WRITERS ARE TELLING US ABOUT THE INTERNET OF THINGS, SMART MANUFACTURING, MANUFACTURING 4.0 AND BIG DATA—IS ANY OF THIS NEW OR JUST NOISE?
To this non-casual observer there are few things that have actually changed. The true focus of every manufacturer I have known is to have effective production processes and to provide continuous support to improving those processes. The Internet of Things et al. should be considered the next step in a lineup of tools to help us continue to focus on processes. Keep your eye on the prize—the best production processes to develop and maintain your competitive advantage.