The business value of automation

WBF’s Director of Strategic Industry Alliances, Rodger Jeffery, is excited about the new challenges our industry faces and suggests we regroup, reorganize, and commit to a stronger working alliance in regards to standards.

By Rodger Jeffery

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The Way Back Up
If you were in attendance at the annual “excellence in manufacturing” ARC Advisory Group conference in Orlando last month, where many senior manufacturing executives spelt it out for the engineering community, you would have heard the following mantra over and over.

“Your industry must find a way to…

  1. ACCELERATE & COMPRESS the development of INTEROPERABLE STANDARDS, standards that will work horizontally across, and vertically within our supply chain.
  2. Also give us COMPREHENSIVE SOLUTIONS that we can deploy SIMPLY and manage SIMPLY, solutions that will make us more COMPETITIVE! “
    This is the way up. I doubt whether our industry’s customers can cry out any louder or more explicitly than they are right now.

Coming Together
Most end-users believe that both these goals should be and could be addressed by the suppliers alone. I believe that they are correct in regards to point 2) above. However, there are some big assumptions and flaws in that conclusion in regards to point 1).  

Suppliers are probably the worst group to lead the development of standards. They have too much self interest, and usually have too much of a technology legacy at stake. Standards work left to the leadership of suppliers, encourages log jams and standards work can drag on and on. There are many examples of these log jams in our history and even as we speak.

On the other hand end-users have a vested interest in getting standards work completed and in place a early as possible. This allows them to effectively adopt new technologies at a faster pace with a higher degree of success, profitability and a lower total cost of ownership.

So What is the Problem? Why Can’t Suppliers Deliver?
Statistics tell us that more than 80% of all suppliers participate in Standards Work today. More importantly less than 30% of the End-Users whose revenue streams are over 1 Billion USD (and I am being generous with the percentage) participate in Standards Work. See the problem!

End-Users will never get what they want, nor as fast as they want it, until their management buys into the idea that they have to fund their employee’s participation in standards work. If they don’t they will continue to undermine the longer term health of their enterprise.     

So If You’re Willing to Buy In, How Can You Engage?
Firstly, there many work groups you can join. There is still work to do on S88 & S95. The Make2Pack work group has come along way in harmonizing the S88 and OMAC standards, but there is still more work to be done there. There is work to be done in the construction of “education modules” to help educate both basic and advanced end –users of the standards. The workgroups will take any help they can get. Especially if you are an end-user, we specifically need end-users. Please visit the following web sites and find a standards workgroup that interest you or your company and e-mail the committee chair.

Please also visit the WBF’s SPINNAKER webpage. You’ll see how we have affiliated ourselves to the AUTOMATION FEDERATION to ensure the work you do attains maximum impact.

Again, we need your help to invigorate and change the industry’s standing. Greater numbers of End-Users have to come together with suppliers so that together they can deliver the STANDARDS at the SPEED that the industry needs. Once done then the End-Users will have every right to expect the suppliers to follow through on the SOLUTIONS.   

I leave you with this thought. There is an old saying amongst engineering managers…that most engineers cost you money, some good engineers save money and a few excellent engineers make money! One by one, engineers (suppliers and end-users) have to put themselves back in the black and then become excellent engineers.

Now is the time. It is that point in history. Our customers have been clear. Their goals now spelt out. It is up to us to come together to get the job done. Carpe Diem, come together and increase our Automation industries business value.

  About the Author

Rodger Jeffery is a Global Business Development Manager working for Mettler Toledo Inc. in Columbus, OH. Jeffery has been around the automation of measurement and control since 1975. He has lived and worked on four continents, and has been a volunteer member of the WBF for the last six years.

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