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Machine Builders in my Factory?

November 3, 2011 - 0 Comments

As you know there are many changes in manufacturing operations today. These certainly relate to Operations Excellence, Continuous Innovation, Energy Management, even the Supply Chain and Customer Service world. There are technology changes and personnel changes. There are Global impacts as manufacturing companies compete in new regions and those same new regions sprout new manufacturers. And at the end of the day (or maybe the beginning?) there is a need for someone to build a specialized machine.

We have already seen the power of a converged (technologically) network. Ethernet/IP helps the controls world provide information to the IT world. We see this every day, where older proprietary networks are replaced by standard Ethernet. Here are some thoughts as they relate to specialized machine builders:

So, we have this technology that can unify us, Ethernet. Who knew that years ago I sold against Ethernet? But that was a different version. Today is new, with managed switches, managed services, and tomorrow is your new today.

Think about it. A production line needs a variety of machines to do the production thing. One machine does what it is designed for and passes it off via a transfer line or conveyor to another machine. And that sequence continues until the final product is put into a package. That packaging may be a machine too. Or it may be a forklift taking the product to a truck.

So now think of the information that is available at every stage of the line, and also available to each of the specialized machines. (Throughput, errors, shortages, what the machine could have done better, maintenance requests, etc.) Some of those machines have Operators (some may not, some may be monitored by Video!). Those Operators (whether local or remote) may have some interaction capability. All information. To the system.

And guess what? That information dictates your efficiency, your profitability, your ability to satisfy customers demands. And at the core is the Machine Builder. Now it used to be that an End User manufacturing customer would design the functional boxes and then assign those to individual machine builders. We have seen evidence through a number of Voice of the Customer (VoC) events that this is changing. Maybe not in all industries. But in some.

We see the Machine Builder becoming more of an influencer, more taking over the expertise. In some industries this could be because of the aging workforce, in others it may be because they are protecting proprietary information. But the Machine Builder is an increasingly important figure in the production line. Support of the line (not just the machine) may be the next event on the horizon for the Machine Builder. More to come on that.

In the meantime, we will be exhibiting as Cisco AND as part of a Rockwell Automation booth at Automation Fair in Chicago on November 16/17. We will have a literal ton of people there to talk to you.

Please join the discussion!

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