IMTS and Digital Transformation – When Worlds Collide

We had the opportunity to attend IMTS earlier this month, along with over 130,000 of our closest friends. What we learned at our booth, and across the multiple acres of technology displays, certainly bears closer scrutiny.

Manufacturing technology strategy is undergoing a radical change, but it’s hard to say whether this show reflects the reality of what’s going on at a strategic level. Floor after floor, and acres of displays, offered every point solution imaginable.  Every possible acronym was represented, from CAM to MES to CAD and IoT. Very intelligent engineers at every level viewed these point solutions with visions of integration dancing in their heads, but who’s looking after the big picture?

IMTS 2018 Dreamers and Doers

Modern manufacturers will compete and survive only when they consider this digital transformation holistically.  MES is great, but until it connects all the way back to the Customer Service reps who take the calls about order status, it will not achieve its true potential. IoT will certainly add value to any enterprise, but it will not fulfil its actual mission until it seamlessly communicates with Field Service personnel in the field.

Very few vendors talked about the digital nightmare of multiple disconnected point solutions. A ‘best of breed’ strategy is expensive and cumbersome.  Effective competitors will understand this and make it a strategic consideration.  The others will wilt and collapse under the weight of the eternal search for the ‘universal adapter’.

True digital transformation implies an understanding that your platform allows seamless communication, in real time, from the shop floor to the top floor, from the customer to the warehouse, from the machine to the users and technicians.

Microsoft is one of the few vendors that gets this.  A company can’t nibble away at point solutions and remain cost effective in its operations.  A revolution is coming and it will sweep away everything in its path. One must have a platform that accounts for all of this and lends itself to powerful BI and AI.  Machine learning is not tomorrow’s dream, it’s today’s methodology for advanced forecasting and agile reaction to market forces.

In two year’s time, before the next IMTS show, manufacturing planners, executives and subject matter experts will ignore this consideration at their own peril.

While the term “Digital Transformation” remains a bit of a mystery to the average manufacturer, it will benefit all of us to look at these business models as a whole, and not as a sum of its parts.

Let’s all talk about that at the next IMTS – it’s the only way to stay relevant in today’s manufacturing environment.


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