ARC president: Pick up the pace of technology adoption
The speed of manufacturing information adoption is accelerating, and those who stay on the sidelines will find themselves falling further behind a fully-optimized plant. That was the keynote message from ARC Advisory Group president Andy Chatha at the 2013 ARC Forum in Orlando, on Feb. 12.
“All of you have data, gathering information in real time. The challenge is that we haven’t had good tools to analyze that data,” Chatha told more than 600 attendees at the ARC event. “Now we do have powerful analytical tools. We think information-driven manufacturing is the way to leverage the information. You have to be able to make sense out of the information.”
Chatha noted that the accelerated use of smart devices, the pervasive influences of Wi-Fi and cloud computing and the connective nature of devices all have created enormous opportunities to leverage the data now available on the plant floor.
“It’s much easier now to get devices connected and add intelligence,” Chatha said. “In my view, one thing that is happening is that the cost of adding intelligence is coming way down. Companies should be adding intelligence to all equipment. Data should be moving toward some sort of cloud.”
But the key for manufacturing to take advantage of this technology is speed, and Chatha noted manufacturing is slow to embrace speed.
“Technology constantly is changing. Most manufacturing companies are very conservative. They only employ technology when it has been well-proven,” he said. “That strategy worked fine in the past. New technologies are more disruptive, and they are moving faster. Now you have to start testing technologies faster. If you are not testing technologies, it may take you too long to catch up. You’ve got to start moving a little faster toward developing new technologies.”
Chatha sees a continuing evolution of the plant floor processes.
“With powerful tools, you can look at all processes in the plant and information outside the plant—in your supply chain, for example,” Chatha said. “Look at how analyzing much larger amounts of information can optimize the performance of the plant.”
Developing such a plan will require new relationships from existing suppliers. “The automation business already is moving toward being more of a service business,” Chatha said. “One model is looking at signing some sort of performance-based service agreement with suppliers, based on key metrics. Systems are becoming more complex, and it is more difficult for manufacturers to upgrade them and manage them. “