After Hannover, the quest for improvement must continue


Bob Vavra, content manager, CFE Media.The idea of continuous improvement is that your current state of operations should be better than it was yesterday and not quite as good as it could be tomorrow. It requires not settling for steady state; it is about trying to continue to evolve and find improvement.

The attendance at Hannover Messe 2016 from American-based companies, state, and regional economic development groups grew exponentially in 2016. Most of that growth revolved around the Partner Country status of the United States. The influence of the Partner Country opportunity delivered not only the highest-ever U.S. attendance at the world's largest industrial trade show, it also was the largest contingent from any Partner Country in the show's history.

These are all great achievements, and our partners at the U.S. Department of Commerce, which helped organize the wildly successful "Select USA" theme of the show should take today and celebrate. The companies , and the political and business leaders who came away impressed and even awed by the opportunities at Hannover Messe, have declared the experience a valuable week of time and money spent.

Which brings up the crucial next question: what happens next?

It's not just about Hannover Messe in 2017, although this year's event should crystallize for American manufacturing what we have touted for years-that this show is a vital resource for manufacturers. The important change that must continue to take place is to view manufacturing in the lens of global competition. American manufacturers must compete globally, even if they do not globally export their products. If an imported product can provide equal quality at a lower price, consumers will purchase it. That's how the economy works.

The emphasis around Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)—what the Germans call Industrie 4.0—was in every corner of the 30-plus halls at Hannover Messe this year. It was at the forefront of every panel presentation and every business discussion. There is a genuine excitement about IIoT, and a genuine apprehension. There needs to be a discussion on how to move forward.

It requires all of us to get out from behind our desks and get more information. It requires us to ask questions and find ways to get those questions answered. It requires us to examine our operations fully to understand where we are, and to anticipate where we could go. It is in that possibility for real fundamental change in manufacturing where the promise of IIoT lives each day.

Change is scary, and it may be expensive, but I am convinced the cost of not changing will be far greater. The difference between those manufacturers who find a way to adopt IIoT strategies and those who do not will determine which companies will be around in the future.

The journey at Hannover Messe takes about 15,000 steps a day to continue to learn about the companies and technologies available to bring IIoT to manufacturing. There is no shortage of information out there on this topic. There is no shortage of ideas.

Before you can take those 15,000 steps in Germany, you have to take the first step wherever you are. The first step is embracing the future, and continuing every day to prepare for the day to follow.

The next step will be to join CFE Media at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago on Sept. 12-16, where the U.S. will showcase its solutions for IIoT. We will be part of the Industrial Automation North America pavilion at IMTS, along with our partners at Hannover Fairs USA, and we will present the third Global Automation and Manufacturing Summit on Sept. 14 starting at noon.

Between now and then, it is worth a little time every day to get ready for change. Adopt the attitude of continuous improvement in the ways you learn and begin to implement IIoT in your plants. The U.S. gained enormous momentum from this year's Hannover Messe. To let it end when the last American visitors leaves the fairgrounds will be to have lost the opportunity for continuous improvement.

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Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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