Use it or lose it

Use advanced technology to make manufacturing processes more efficient, or lose the standard of living that a technology-infused society offers. I believe you understand that—that's why you're reading Control Engineering—to reduce cost of manufacturing; develop low-cost, robust solutions that can be quickly implemented; and get faster results at the company cash register.

10/01/2004


Use advanced technology to make manufacturing processes more efficient, or lose the standard of living that a technology-infused society offers. I believe you understand that—that's why you're reading Control Engineering —to reduce cost of manufacturing; develop low-cost, robust solutions that can be quickly implemented; and get faster results at the company cash register.

That's also why Harry D. Dodd, Caterpillar Inc.'s manager, advanced machining, is applying the latest automation technologies. He leads Caterpillar's Advanced Production Technology Center for Manufacturing Excellence and gave the IMTS 2004 keynote presentation, 'A Reading of the Challenging Trends in Global Manufacturing and Insights for the Future.'

'It's often difficult for engineers to explain the benefits of technology and justify related spending,' says Dodd. That emphasizes the need to learn the message and communicate more effectively. He recommends:

1. Identify the critical success factors within your organization , as management author Stephen Covey says.

2. Encourage innovative minds . Start with raw ideas and venture capital, work with suppliers, government labs, partner with companies, universities, six sigma teams, and customers to develop a research technology portfolio. Create proof of concept; determine economic viability considering total lifecycle costs; then make products. Caterpillar recently started a small 'idea factory' to help promote a more creative culture.

3. Provide leadership vision . That means saying 'no' to perfectly good technologies that don't advance core goals. Caterpillar tells customers on www.cat.com , 'We've applied technologies selectively— incorporating only those that deliver intelligent solutions. So if it doesn't improve performance, increase productivity, extend component life, help the operator, reduce service time, lower operating costs, enhance resale value, address an environmental challenge, or make your time more efficient, you won't find it on our machines.' In the bigger picture, capital costs account for 22% of an investment, with operational costs at 71%, and maintenance at 7%, Dodd says.

4. Develop a smart enterprise . 'Only a small percentage of machines are really used' to capacity, Dodd suggests, and the amount of capital assets in place is declining because of higher throughput of new technologies. With pressure to reduce the amount of capital investment, if control engineers aren't helping ensure dollars are spent wisely, the company could be 'blind-sided,' falling drastically short of competition. In other words ... use it or lose it.

For more reading on these topics, see this column online at www.controleng.com .

Mark T. Hoske, Editor-in-Chief

MHoske@cfemedia.com


Online Extra: More advice in related reading
Control Engineering offers advice on related topics below.

SME: The Society of Manufacturing Engineers organized IMTS sessions. More information about SME by visiting their website .





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