ADVANCED MANUFACTURING NOW Modern Manufacturing Processes, Solutions & Strategies

Dave O’Neil Vice President

Advanced Manufacturing Media, SME

In survey, early adopters say digital technology is worth it


manager at a large automotive parts manufacturer wrote to us this summer for advice. He was prepar- ing a recommendation for his senior leadership

team to create a new job position: a coordinator of manu- facturing technologies across the company’s nearly dozen factories in North America. For now, he told us, he was calling it “Shop Floor Tech- nology Manager,” and this new position would oversee the coordination and integration of hardware and soft- ware manufacturing technologies. “Right now,” he said, all of the factories “are doing a little bit of something on their own with no oversight.” The person in this role would need to be skilled in vari- ous manufacturing technologies and software systems and have IT knowledge, he said. Leadership and logistics skills would also be important. The manager asked us how oth- ers might be crafting job descriptions for similar posts. We frequently hear about struggles to meet new de-

mands created by the emerging smart manufacturing sector. In fact, we heard a nearly identical

story not long before at an event the Digital Manufacturing and Design Inno- vation Institute (DMDII) held. The manufacturer of a well-known

brand of home goods said factories around the world that make the same exact product all make it in their own way, using different technologies and strategies, resulting in a wide variation in quality and cost. It’s a story that’s all too common:

A lot of factories doing their own technology thing, even when they make the same things. On the opposite end of the scale

would be fully integrated factories all working on the same technologies and delivering a consistent product at consistent cost. Imagine the potential lessons that could be learned by sharing data among these factories and doing what works best? Imagine the potential savings and quality improvements. The time has never been better for this shift. In the first issue of Smart Manufacturing, we shared

56 There was also a split when considering how smart

manufacturing technologies are perceived in terms of adding value. The smallest companies—those with fewer than 20 employees—and the largest firms viewed digital technologies the most favorably here. Midsize firms—those with 20-499 employees—lagged.

some results from the survey we did of more than 800 manufacturing professionals—they represent a variety of company sizes, industries and job titles—as we prepared to launch this magazine. The big takeaway was that 87% of respondents believe smart manufacturing technologies will result in significant changes within the next five years. Only 13% believe the change will take six years or more. In this issue, we drill down a bit more into the numbers to

explore some of the real challenges that exist for adopters of smart manufacturing technology and business strategies. Almost half of those surveyed expressed concern they

were behind in the smart manufacturing revolution. Those working at the largest companies—those with more than 500 employees—performed the best. Predictably, smaller compa- nies were lagging. We asked: How would you assess your company’s com-

petitive position relative to using new technology in manu- facturing? (One response allowed.)

Summer 2016

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