In recent articles on topics including the Internet of Things and Big Data, we’ve talked about technology’s increasing impact in business, particularly in manufacturing. A recent blog post by Brian Oulton, an Industrial Director of Marketing at Belden, Inc. a century old producer of industrial products that include networking, IT and connectivity under a variety of brand names, discusses 4 of the biggest trends, and what to do about them.
Oulton’s “big trends” encompass topics we parsed before, but his ‘What To Do About Them’ comments are worth passing along. In his view, the four big trends that manufacturers need to be aware of are: Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Cloud Computing and Industry 4.0.
As would befit a supplier of industrial networks, Oulton’s first recommended step is to make sure your own network is up to snuff, or as he puts it: “make sure your network is well-designed and that it lets you scale-up dramatically, easily and reliably.” Of course.
But it’s his ‘brainstorming’ that’s worth giving a listen. For example, on the subject of “Big Data”: You may already be collecting lots of data, but struggling to understand it, thus making it hard to act upon. If you had it at your fingertips, what would you do with it? Suggests Oulton:
“Could it be used to provide super customized products for customers, based on market trends and sales / demand data? Or, what if you could share trend and other data in real-time, directly with customers, have them decide what they want made, then make it and delivery it really fast?
What if algorithms could be applied to big data that would allow you to smooth out production? What benefits would that give you?
Big data can be used to accelerate business by quickly matching production with demand. What do you dream about being able to do in this area?”
On today’s so-called Internet of Things (interconnectivity across machines, sensors and appliances):
“This is about having information from disparate sources, some of which are in the factory and some of which are outside of it, available at your fingertips.
For example, let’s say you have trouble with a machine. Imagine that you could troubleshoot the problem using data not just from sensors, actuators, PLCs, etc. but also from drawings, videos and help text. Now add in information from patches and updates from the Internet, plus voice and video connections with the machine building company and other remote resources.
Now what other problems could be solved faster by being able to bring together a wide variety of information quickly?”
As to cloud computing and storage, Oulton suggests:
“With information available anywhere anytime, what advantages can you gain from that? Does it enable closer collaboration between different facilities? Can it connect you closer to your customers?”
Give Mr. Oulton credit for framing the questions companies today could be asking themselves – once they have the underlying infrastructure to warrant asking them. In doing so, he’s framing the questions that are really at the heart of the future of manufacturing.
Read his full post here for further information.