One of the benefits of my position is that I get to spend time interacting with a variety of manufacturers and system integrators. Typically, these conversations revolve around the information divide between the plant floor and the enterprise level. In the past, some of the needs were focused on how to get the orders to the machines on the plant floor or how to get actual consumption data from the machines back without paper. For those of you who like acronyms, topics covered included Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM). In the past couple of years a new theme of Smart Manufacturing has emerged.
Smart Manufacturing and related terms are getting a lot of hype. While I would like to take credit for helping to drive that effort through my articles and posts, I know that it is much more pervasive. The simple truth is that conversations around Smart Manufacturing and digital manufacturing are happening at all levels of the organization – from the CEO to the operators. The fact that you can turn on the TV these days and see a commercial referencing these things is great.
The downside to this is that hype brings confusion. Because the idea (and hype) of Smart Manufacturing is so grand and often mistakenly thought of as a simple solution, manufacturers are looking to understand how to implement it. However, they’re seeing something that I like to call the “Chasm.” In short, people are approaching Smart Manufacturing as a singular thing and don’t see a clear path to implement it – they see a chasm that they don’t know how to cross.
Simply stated, Smart Manufacturing is a journey, rather than a singular thing to deploy. I like to paint the mental picture of a series of steps – each with their own discrete items that are very achievable and bring benefits to the organization. To unwind the hype, I suggest that you check out the videos created by MESA. They do a great job of quickly explaining Smart Manufacturing at a high level that might help to drive these conversations within your organization. This series provides an overview with five follow-up videos, each less than three minutes long.