A question loaded with promise

April 9, 2021
Now what?

Now what?

A few years back, upon first hearing about the Industrial Internet of Things or Industry 4.0, fad-weary business owners might have uttered that phrase—Now what?—as in “Now what is everybody talking about?!”

It’s what is known as the Shiny Object Syndrome; an attraction to whatever is new, regardless of its merits. We’re all prone to it at times, particularly during these days of technological wonderment.

But today—in an era when smart, data-driven approaches to manufacturing are widely considered to be necessary to compete in the industrial space—the more common translation of that “Now what?” questions would be this: We’ve tested the waters. Early digitalization efforts have worked or proven to be potentially successful. Now what steps must we take to make this stuff a real revenue generator?

Smart manufacturing is no longer a bright shiny object with dubious value. Those with a few dents in their digital-transformations—and the lessons learned in acquiring those dents—are succeeding.

That promise of widened wins can be enticing. The process of scaling initial efforts can prove challenging. The cover story in the Q1 2021 issue of Smart Industry features Roy Kok exploring those obstacles and offering guidance on turning small success into big ones. Roy is with CESMII, The US-government-funded Smart Manufacturing Institute, which spurs advances in smart sensors and digital process controls with the goal of radically improving the efficiency of domestic advanced manufacturing. Scaling these strategies on a macro scale, you might say.

Roy’s insights, along with guidance from a host of other contributors to SmartIndustry.com, where scaling digital efforts is a common theme for articles and blog posts, are applicable to any sized enterprise, in any type of manufacturing vertical.

The leaders of those enterprises must be bold in embracing these ideas. The concept of transformation, after all, is a radical one. Transformation implies an enterprise-wide change…not just a few sensors strapped onto a single asset. Scaling efforts extend beyond merely adding more tools that have proven worthwhile or including more machines to the effort. True scaling success requires changing the larger business model, the mindsets of the workforce and the processes they oversee.

Now what?

In a word…more. At least for those whose early efforts were encouraging enough to prompt that promising question.  

Until we automate this column…

Chris McNamara, Smart Industry Editor in Chief

[email protected]