Thursday, March 14, 2013

What Keeps You Up At Night?

How many times have you asked this question--to your peers, to important customers, during strategy meetings.  It is an effective way of cutting through the noise to uncover the essence of key care-abouts. 

I've been thinking about that from an industrial automation perspective.  The industry itself is nearing 45+ years, beginning with the development of the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) back in the 70's.  Their key care-abouts at the time were to replace unstable and single purpose relays with a device that could multi-task different plant control functions, that could be programmed in a language that the plant electrician could understand, and could more effectively manage multitudes of control sensors.
Fast forward to the 90's.  Software now becomes prevalent on the plant floor, HMI (Human Machine Interface) software overlayed, enriched, and sometimes replaced equipment such as chart recorders, clip boards, and dedicated operator interface panels.
 Key care abouts? Staffing, training, securing enough manpower to support these new technologies.  Using them effectively. Integrating them into existing systems. 

What about today?  Happily, technology adoption has become commonplace.  On the other hand, the vast amount of legacy systems is higher than ever.  Workforces are in transition, as the baby boomers retire, or at least think about retiring, within the next 5 years, so quickly training and onboarding are important.  Getting more out of existing assets, absolutely. As are setting out roadmaps for compliance, regulatory conformance and operations productivity improvements.

So what is your next challenge?  Is it to replace ERP functionality with a more focused operations application?  Boost your security? Add workflow for better collaboration?  Bring in mobile solutions for more reactive process management?   The automation industry's progress in blending consumer technology, such as mobile, with real time control and visualization is now at a point of inflection. 

So what keeps you up at night, whether it's better profitability, more throughput, improved quality, better brand management--those solutions are there.  The legacy systems, training, and modernization of your plant that may be the constraints.  But, you have more choices than ever, vendors with vast amounts of experience, and insight to making your key care abouts, answered.

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