Lean Six Sigma

The new digital plant

Mike Bacidore says manufacturing intelligence brings the future in real time.

By Mike Bacidore, editor in chief

What are manufacturers hoping cyber-connectivity will bring? A panel of forward thinkers discussed the future of manufacturing intelligence at SME’s Big M Manufacturing Convergence in Detroit.

“A lot of our customers are looking for being able to power the operator to do the job,” said Jay Monahan, SAP director, Dell. “Somebody always has that Excel sheet off to the side to use as a guide or crutch. We're empowering the operator to make decisions and do something important — manufacture. We give predictive analytics, so the operator can make decisions instead of looking for approval. We help them to look across global KPIs. We digitize it.”

A vertical integration of different systems is what’s needed, added Franz Gruber, CEO of Forcam. “Integrate the shop floor in real time with the vertical IT for world-class shop floor management. Collaboration in a real-time environment can cut production time by 20%,” he explained.

lead-Mike-Bacidore.jpgMike Bacidore is chief editor of Plant Services and has been an integral part of the Putman Media editorial team since 2007, when he was managing editor of Control Design magazine. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning a Gold Regional Award and a Silver National Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at 630-467-1300 ext. 444 or mbacidore@putman.net or check out his .

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“Ten years ago, I was on the shop floor,” said Bryan Dods, executive, manufacturing technology for global supply chain, GE Power and Water. “I embedded ultrasonic sensors. They were never robust enough to survive in a manufacturing environment. I've seen the robustness of the sensors improve so you can rely on them. The tools have become so robust. We have firewalls on our shop floor. We can connect machine tools within our cybersecurity.” With the new hires GE Power and Water is hiring, the culture is changing and the factory floor is becoming more adaptable to those new hires.

The coming change is in manufacturing culture, agreed Josh Davids, CEO, Scytec. “It’s getting away from running a lot of reports vs. having dashboards in real time,” he said. “We need a richer set of data to make proactive decisions. A lot of trends are toward more data, smarter data, real-time data, and moving to the cloud to store the data so you can change what you're doing very fast. There are going to be things you learn from analyzing the data. A lot of cloud-based services go toward real time.”

Think back about 20-25 years ago, said Helmuth Ludwig, CEO Siemens Industry Sector USA. “We're back where innovation is driven — manufacturing and design,” he explained. “What is driving productivity if you think 10-15 years ahead? On the manufacturing floor, productivity will level off. Staying on the factory floor is not enough. The next S curve is combining the factory floor with design. We acquired and invested $3.5 billion in UGS’ PLM software, so when a designer makes a change, it goes to the rest of the site.”

What operators envision is what they can go and do, says Monahan. “What do you want to build today?” he asked. “If you have all the materials, the tool suite you can go with to provide that connectivity can empower the user. There's a lot of connectivity you can cover today that's instantaneous. How do you allow people to do their jobs with the least amount of interruptions?”

Read Mike Bacidore's monthly column, From the Editor.