A few months ago, I spent several days on a tour of some very interesting compressed-air applications in some equally fascinating facilities throughout North Carolina and South Carolina with Paul Humphreys, John Mader, and Alexandra Zsoldos. Interspersed throughout our visits were many enriching conversations, such as the one Paul and I had about engaging employees to facilitate corporate sustainability. But not all of our witty banter entailed industrial advances.
Being of foreign origin, Paul was unfamiliar with Cheap Trick, an iconic American rock ‘n’ roll band from Rockford, Illinois. How could we familiarize him with all of the details of Cheap Trick’s rise to musical stardom?
“If only we had a device with access to all of the world’s knowledge.”
This became our mantra for the next few days we spent together. Every time one of us attempted to recollect a cricket batsman’s epic comeback to a bowler’s sledge or wondered how raspberries are muddled prior to inclusion in the Ballantyne martini, another of us would chant, “If only we had a device with access to all of the world’s knowledge.” And then we’d all grab our smartphones and race to see which of us could retrieve the information first.
Wouldn’t it be great if plant personnel had the ability to find answers to their problems? Wouldn’t it be highly empowering to have access to data wherever and whenever they needed it? And wouldn’t it be preferable for them to carry that information with them via their own personal devices?
Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies have sprung up in most industrial plants. The IT department needs to maintain the security of the data, but wireless Internet and 4G networks are so prevalent that, any more, you almost have the ability to bring your own information (BYOI).
The cloud model is slowly replacing IT-owned software, platforms, and infrastructure with service models. But manufacturing intelligence challenges exist. Earlier this year at the ARC Forum in Orlando, Florida, Joe Sanguinetti, engineering manager at General Mills, explained some of the concerns his organization is addressing, including data governance and administration. “How do we govern our data?” he asked. “When we start thinking about cloud, how do we manage that and make sure the data doesn't negatively impact the brands? I want to make sure I'm policing everything. Our first EMI strategy rollout was self-service dashboards, customized to specific users in a plant. How do you balance data governance with administration?”
General Mills provided increased visibility to real-time metrics to allow manufacturing to resolve issues quickly. “A 25% increase in data notifications to the user will drive a 5% increase in productivity,” said Sanguinetti. That’s good information. If only there were a device to access it.