In my previous post I suggested that manufacturing might be at a point where we can make a step-change in productivity. Unlike the past 20-25 years where it seems we have struggled with the integration of process control and business systems and deriving value from that integration recent advances in both technology and political leadership may allow us to finally “cross the chasm”. First - from a political leadership perspective. The US government has finally put some horsepower behind the oft-touted mantra that manufacturing is essential to the economy. Today the DOE announced it is investing $23 million in “Smart Manufacturing” as it relates to energy efficiency on top of the money that NIST and other elements of the government have invested in the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition. http://www.eere.energy.gov/manufacturing/rd/innovative_manufacturing.html For those unfamiliar with the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition you should visit http://www.smartmanufacturingcoalition.org.
The second reason we might just be able to make it work is the technology focus of SMLC is different than past initiatives which were all about just linking systems together to share information. Initiatives like MAP/TOP (a marginal success), TCP/IP (a huge success) and OPC (an industry success) all have focused on the challenges of just getting information from one system to another. They lacked an essential element - work flow orchestration. Lets face it - it isn’t just about what you know - it is how you use the information you know to make decisions and deliver results. The SLMC doesn’t guarantee that workflows can be integrated across different businesses but from a technological perspective it offers a real shot at making it possible - which is what the next post will discuss.