The revolution is coming to a laptop near you

We just installed a new editorial production system here at PLANT ENGINEERING. As with most technology launches, there were meetings and seminars and demos and training, all leading up to the final changeover. I only had one question as we started the implementation: “Will it work?” You got your issue this month, so the answer was, “Yes.


We just installed a new editorial production system here at PLANT ENGINEERING . As with most technology launches, there were meetings and seminars and demos and training, all leading up to the final changeover. I only had one question as we started the implementation: “Will it work?”

You got your issue this month, so the answer was, “Yes.”

The changes in manufacturing system measurement in the last decade have largely revolved around measuring equipment %%MDASSML%% how hot, how fast, how many. Most plant engineers asked the same question I did: “Will it work?”

We've again found the answer is, “Yes.”

Now it's wireless, as you'll read this month. The acceleration of wireless implementations grow as more and more plant managers discover that not only does the technology work, but it improves their ability to monitor and measure the world they work in. This time, it's not an evolutionary improvement. Wireless is part of a revolution on the plant floor.

Wireless isn't the flavor of the month. It's not another passing fad, but a whole new way of working. It will change plant operations in the same way personal computers, Ethernet and Lean have changed the way we work.

The people involved in creating the standards under which wireless will work in an industrial setting are volunteers, toiling over the minutiae of protocols and codes to achieve interoperability. They do so with a sense that they're on the verge of something revolutionary here %%MDASSML%% something akin to writing a Declaration of Interdependence.

When you watch their work, as I did at last month's meeting in Chicago, you can see that despite the competitive landscape many of these suppliers work in, their overall goal is to make everyone's plants run better, faster and smarter.

When that is accomplished, we'll have a plant floor that is better connected, better monitored, better able to deliver knowledge and information to you, all in real time. You'll know just what's going on, and where, and you'll be able to deploy resources quickly to address issues. It will all show up on your laptop %%MDASSML%% logical, actionable knowledge.

See, this is not just a revolution of technology, but also of operational authority. The driving power in manufacturing has always been the skill and dedication of the plant floor worker. Strategy is fine, but it is execution that leads to victory.

With the revolution in wireless, and with other revolutionary events that you'll read about in the next few months in PLANT ENGINEERING , the balance of power is shifting within the plant. The manufacturing floor is the site of this American Revolution. Unlike its predecessor of 1776, this one doesn't need to have any casualties %%MDASSML%% unless you're not prepared for the changes on the horizon.

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
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Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
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Annual Salary Survey

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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