Smart(er) Manufacturing in the Era of Systems of Intelligence

Still energized by bringing the Sexy Back to Manufacturing at Hannover Messe, Microsoft's 'Intelligent Ecosystem' had another opportunity to engage with leaders on the front lines of the manufacturing renaissance. Last week it was at the Smart Manufacturing Summit, in Indianapolis USA, sponsored by the Chief Executive Network. This two-day annual conference was attended by the business executive leaders from 100 mid-sized manufacturers, while being hosted by some of Indianapolis largest manufacturers – Cummins and Eli Lily – representing a spectrum of discrete and process manufacturing verticals. 

Industry 4.0 or Smart Manufacturing? Its Still a Revolution. 

A different continent. Smaller businesses. Smart Manufacturing rather than Germany's Industry 4.0. However the underlying themes were the same. How do manufacturers counter the commoditization trend by reimagining the customer journey, challenging existing business models, and redesigning operational processes? Manufacturers, are reputed to be a conservative crowd, and conventional wisdom suggest you don't use radical words like 'transformation' or 'revolution', but manufacturers openly discussed the '4th Industrial Revolution', and the opportunities presented for a 'digital transformation' at the Smart Manufacturing Summit in Indianapolis. 


Microsoft's Intelligent Ecosystem is Leading the Revolution 

Partners such as Rockwell Automation, eLogic, and Vertical Solutions are all ready for the new era of Systems of Intelligence, and led, listened and learned, at the various solution exchanges, roundtables, and panel discussions. Mike Shields of eLogic has provided his seasoned insights on the executive discussion on the Industrial Internet of Things, and the status (and misconceptions) about CRM and Intelligent Customer Engagement in his blog "The Voice of the Customer on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and CRM". Meanwhile Kris Brannock from Vertical Solutions has summarized the insights she gleaned from contributors such as  Cummins, Pratt and Whitney, Stanley Black & Decker, and Rick Smith of the Additive Manufacturing Council on the disruptive potential of 3D composite materials, and 3D printing (of IoT parts for Field Service) in her blog: "3D Printing Creates New Possibilities for Industrial Internet of Things". Rockwell Automation generously joined Microsoft for its IoT Roundtable, and shared their own experiences innovating with Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, and the new business models they were seeing emerge in the ecosystem powered by their industrial automation products and services.  

CEO's Responsibility to Enable Innovation 

One of the lighter, and yet enlightening moments of the Summit was when a collective sigh of relief was let out when Christian Pedersen, GM of Microsoft Business Solutions –  answering a loaded question from a panel moderator – told CEOs they don't need to become technical gurus. Christian then went on to stress their responsibility does include understanding how technology can enable new business models, trying not to stifle innovation, and pushing for out-of-the-box thinking.  

Big Data Doesn’t Have to Mean Big Money 

I really do think manufacturing is getting its 'Sexy Back'. However, if there's one disappointment from the last few weeks of world travels, its that smaller manufacturers don’t seem to have grasped how the convergence of social, mobile, analytical, IoT and cloud (SMAIC) technologies has leveled the playing field like never before. Economies of scale don’t mean what they used to. Its a theme I've been exploring with The Manufacturer.  


Its amazing what a 'smart' manufacturer can do in the era of Systems of Intelligence