Thursday, November 20, 2008

Convergence is the word

20 November 2008

Convergence is the word

The goal moving forward is to squeeze as much profit out of the plant floor as possible. To do that, it will mean change, and that will necessitate converging plant floor technologies and know how with IT’s expertise.

“A tough environment like this is where leaders separate from the pack,” said Keith Nosbusch, chairman and chief executive of Rockwell Automation, during his keynote address Wednesday at Automation Fair in Nashville.

Rockwell’s message during this year’s Fair is all about convergence. The company feels if the plant floor and the IT department unite into a team, there will be far greater overall advantages.

“We do have an opportunity during this downside to be leaders of the pack,” said Paul McNab, vice president of enterprise and mid-market solutions marketing at Cisco, during his portion of the keynote. “Information has changed from just data to data, voice and video. This is an opportunity to not only analyze the data, but to put it in context.”

McNab said the PDA, his information vehicle of choice, can do just about anything he needs to get his job done. The technology loaded onto the PDA is able to put everything in context, he said.

That is change that manufacturing can adopt, he added.

“We are going through massive unprecedented change, with regulations, globalization and virtualization. The big issue ends up being what is the threat and what is the opportunity?”

McNab went on to say, the combining of the plant floor and IT is going to happen whether people like it or not, so it might be wise to embrace it.

“It is your choice, you can be the disrupted or the disruptor.”

In this global workforce, for a company to survive, it is all about getting the most out of a process as possible.

“We have to increase productivity if we want to compete in a global economy,” McNab said. “We have to start thinking differently.”

One of the ways to start thinking differently is to step away from the linear mindset. Instead of things going from point A to point B to point C, why not try a new and different way.

“Non linear thought works in other industries, why can’t it work in manufacturing?” McNab asked.

Bob Honor, Rockwell’s vice president of information solutions, agreed.

“We still have way too many manufacturing operations working in silos,” he said. “Globalization brings new competitive challenges, but innovation has circled around to center stage. Innovation can and must occur in all operations.”

—Gregory Hale

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