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  • Jim Gavigan

Is Technology Really Our Problem in IIoT?

So, I saw this tweet below recently and read the article. I got pretty fired up over this article too, not because of what Michael Kanellos said, although I really don't agree with what he said in the tweet either.

What I got fired up over was the fact that I believe that there is a LOT of great technology out there right now and the reason it isn't being used is in fact, people.

Do I believe that the whole article was hogwash? Absolutely not, as there is some well-intentioned technology out there that does make our life harder instead of easier, and it never gets adopted. I don't really disagree with that premise. I have even been guilty of building it at times.

What I do question is that I think there is so much technology that is not being used in manufacturing today because companies don't give their people the time and the breathing room to fully vet and leverage the tools. In my own experience, I and we have built tools that I KNOW would help people in their day to day lives at their plants, but the tyranny of the urgent prevents people from fully vetting these tools and digging in to what they have to offer.

Does that mean the tools we build are perfect, full-proof, and flawless? I am not insinuating that, but for once, I would love to have a customer call me and tell me everything our tool(s) don't do and what they ought to do and they want them fixed, NOW! I would actually get excited over that, even if it meant some criticism over our work. It would mean that someone took time to step back and examine what would make their life at work easier and better. It would also mean that they had spent enough time with the new technology to see what is possible and discovered where we had fallen short of what they believe is possible.

It is interesting how much we use technology in our personal life, but yet shun it when it comes to working in manufacturing. I mean, we will talk to Alexa, Siri, or Cortana, and automate our home. It happens every day. However, we wouldn't think about asking Alexa about trends in our manufacturing plant at our morning production meeting, would we? Well, why not? It isn't like that technology isn't possible or even here. I have seen numerous people working on this exact thing. It IS possible, so why are our home lives and our work lives in manufacturing and heavy industry so different? We have used natural language queries with Cortana in Power BI to build reports. We could just as easily talk to Cortana as to type to (her?) to build reports, ask questions about key issues in our plants, and use it to find out things quickly.

In manufacturing, I truly don't believe that technology is our problem. The technology available is MILES ahead of most manufacturing companies. Not just a few miles either, but many miles. However, we stay stuck in "the way we have always done it." I think it is because companies are too lean and focused on the status quo more than on innovation. Technology, in many cases, is the least of our problems. It us us and how we manage ourselves and our days that is the greatest of our problems.

Please comment if you agree or disagree.

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