Focus on the factory of the future

By Walt Boyes, Editor in Chief
           
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Dear Emerson-san, we're coming to get you! 

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evolutions-R-Us! That's what Andy Chatha, CEO of ARC Advisory Group reached in his keynote address at the ARC Forum held Jan. 31-Feb. 3 in Orlando, Fla. And the Chinese are coming! The Chinese are coming! So the time is right for a revolution in manufacturing. Finally, we will all become those lean, realtime manufacturing companies the TLA (three letter acronym) consultants have been preaching about for the past 20 years.

Right. OK, maybe.

One of the things that always bothers me about the analyst-speak and the consulting contingent is that they've been preaching the same things for years (me too, because I've also been a consultant and an analyst in my shady past), but the things they predict never seem to happen. It seems so obviously a no-brainer to do these things, yet fewer than half of American companies (or European companies, for that matter) are using real-time key performance indicators and other techniques from "the factory of the future" to run their operations. The real number of forward-thinking enterprises may be as low as 2%.

The people who present at these forums are long on the advantages of doing these things but they won't ever talk about drag. Drag, like institutional unwillingness to change work rules and so forth. Drag factors are what I believe are holding things up the most. Just once, I would like to hear a paper that was a balanced presentation of what should be done, and what is necessary to get it done.

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