I recently attended Manucore’s Manufacturing Forum in Atlanta, GA. Overall, a great event with some powerful industry practitioners sharing their knowledge and experience. Here are a few of my key takeaways from the event.
First Key Learning: The IT vs. OT conundrum continues
Unlike many of the events VANTIQ attends, this event was devoid of IT people. It was positioned as an OT (Operational Technology) event. Such folks are generally closer to business outcomes and responsible for the P&L of their manufacturing plant.
I hosted a roundtable that involved 4 OT practitioners (plus some industry analysts) from the manufacturing industry. The OT folks included heavy-hitters from big brands you know, plus a couple of smaller companies. When I introduced the discussion about who will lead digital transformation projects in your organization, IT or OT, the people at the table unanimously said it would be OT (them). IT was too slow. It would take too long to get on their backlog. The projects would stall or fail. The business would have changed too much before IT delivered.
On a more positive note, one thing everyone agreed IT is good at and is necessary for is ensuring and managing security – a critical issue.
So who would actually implement these projects, I asked? They said either their own internal tech-savvy folks (i.e., ghost IT) or external parties (SIs and consultants). IT might get involved later on when the projects had to interface more strongly with legacy systems.
This was clearly not the desired state of affairs – these OT leaders wanted to collaborate more closely with IT – but it just wasn’t happening effectively yet.
- Technology providers clearly need to provide solutions for OT leaders in companies (VP Operations, VP Manufacturing, etc.) They are the ones who own the P&L and have the ultimate responsibility to get business-critical things done.
- Of course IT leaders – such as CIOs – are critical players. They are clearly trying to become more strategic and involved in driving the business. Unfortunately, more junior IT folks are simply not trusted by OT to transform companies and will only become involved after a project is identified and sponsored.
- OT really wants to figure out how to work with IT, how to break down the silos and ensure that solutions can be delivered to the business with speed and agility. Nobody is satisfied with the current situation.
Second Key Learning: Real-time and speed are big themes
In the presentations and discussions I attended, I heard two key themes (and phrases) over and over again. Real-time, real-time, real-time. And speed, speed, speed. In virtually every presentation by these OT leaders, those concepts (and those exact words) were used over and over. The phrase ‘digital transformation’ was rarely if ever used.
- The value of transformation is being expressed in terms of truly about becoming a real-time enterprise and the challenge/opportunity is to do it quickly.
- Agility and flexibility are a sub-component of speed since being able to change, adapt, and grow quickly are fundamental to the notion of speed.
- The concept of ‘digital transformation’ is correct but it is too big, to amorphous. OT leaders want to transform their operations through a series of quick wins, not boiling the entire ocean at once.
Third Key Learning: Human-Machine Collaboration solves a big pain
One very interesting finding from an ARC Advisory Group study/presentation was that 88% of equipment failure issues are random. I.e., there is no machine-learning system that could ever predict the vast majority of breakdowns or other issues that will occur. They showed data from numerous technical studies across various types of equipment/machines to prove this. The audience was clearly a bit stunned by this finding – as was I.
Despite the hype about AI, everything can’t be analyzed ahead of time. In that case it’s more about the effectiveness of actions that are taken. This is precisely why real-time human-machine collaboration is so critical – we need people involved with machines to be able to most effectively solve complex problems that cannot be anticipated.
- Human-machine collaboration needs to be thought of in the context of ‘actions’. VANTIQ is not (just) a real-time analytics platform. It is about enabling effective actions to be taken as the issues/opportunities are unfolding. This requires people and machines taking action in unison. It’s actually more than a collaboration – it’s a partnership.
Overall, the event was well-worth it and I’m looking forward to more learnings during VANTIQ’s attendance at the Supply Chain Leadership Forum.
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