How to Use the Momentum from IMTS 2018 to Join the Digital Revolution of Manufacturing

IMTSBWDid you attend IMTS 2018? If you did, I’m sure you noticed how much of a manufacturing digital transformation has occurred since the last show just two years ago. Modern manufacturing is no longer only about have the right tool and best process to make a product.

It’s about collecting the right data and using it to optimize and automate the processes for maximum efficiency. IIoT, Smart Manufacturing, Industry 4.0 and Big Data are not just buzzwords anymore. 

Are you a manager or owner of a small to mid-size manufacturing company in the Chicago area that visited IMTS 2018?  You may have felt woefully behind the times as you saw the parts flying by on conveyors, smart robots and data displayed like modern video games. You have been making products and making money for years, but now you are faced with a stunning reality that the digital transformation of manufacturing is no longer the future. It’s here now. 

Our race used to be against cheap labor in other countries, and that still applies to a certain extent, but the real race for USA manufacturers is now a technology race. No matter how simple or complex your product, or how long-term your customers, or how “lean” your processes, the old way of doing business will not carry your company into the future. A new paradigm has emerged, and it’s made of data. And that data can now be used to do more powerful things that you’ve probably imagined.

The History of "Computers" 

I’m reminded of the powerful story behind the movie “Hidden Figures.” It the 1960’s our brightest and best mathematicians were employed as “computers” at NASA. They could do unbelievable calculations using very simple tools. I’m sure it was almost incomprehensible that machines could replace their jobs. One very smart woman, Melba Roy, had the foresight to reinvent herself and learn to program the machines which literally took the name of their positions.

In the same way, manufacturers can stay in the back room and keep calculating with their special math skills or they can leave the room and apply themselves to learning the new digital language of data-driven manufacturing. IMTS 2018 took us to the new “room” full of exciting, whirling, somewhat overwhelming and often unfamiliar looking technology.

Now that the show is over, and you sort through the business cards, visit websites and field sales calls, don’t forget what you’ve seen. The quicker you can you develop your IIoT plan and begin to get data-driven insight into your operations, the quicker you will have productivity gains. Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination.

Now is the Time for Action

Here are some tips to capitalize on the momentum from IMTS to get your company on the path to digital transformation as well. If you're concerned about the investments you'll need to make in non-producing equipment, don't worry! With the right partners, you'll have no problem getting quick ROI as you gain insight like never before into your operations.

Here are a few steps to get you started:

  • Where are you now? Your IIoT plan begins with an inventory of the machines and programs that currently manage your business. Do you have an IIoT plan that identifies the digital solutions you need next?
  • Do you have an ERP system that is effectively collecting all your costs, effective with production planning and giving you real-time insight on your shop floor? If not, start here! ERP takes time – get help with an ERP search and get going.
  • Do you have machine monitoring so that you know, without human input, exactly what machines are running at all times? Do you REALLY know your overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)? It’s impossible for your shift-change meetings to accurately communicate real efficiency. If you consistently squeezed in 20 minutes a day of more production with the same equipment and people, imagine what that would do for profitability? Maybe you need technology, not another piece of equipment – but you don’t know until you automate monitoring.

Rose of Sharon DeVos is the Founder and CEO of IIoT Automating Solutions. She provides technology consulting to help you make the best investment in ERP and machine monitoring technology. She helps Chicagoland manufacturing businesses develop IIoT plans to improve overall equipment effectiveness and provides system integration services and project management leadership. Contact her to get started.

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