Manufacturing Gets a Well-Deserved Day


I happened to be thinking about the changes in the manufacturing sector even before I learned that next Friday (Oct. 7) is a time to examine manufacturing, as the industry observes MFG Day. Everyone else has their "day" now, why not this core segment of the US and global economies?

RanierPlendl/Shutterstock
RanierPlendl/Shutterstock

I recently had a discussion with someone from SAS -- really just a couple of older guys chatting about younger days and early jobs. After high school, I spent the longest, hottest summer of my life working in a tannery. We prepared the animal hides that supplied the shoe industry that was a key element in the Massachusetts economy. It was brutal, dirty, but honest work. The type of job that shouted, "You don't want to do this for the rest of your life." That shoe industry long ago fled to southern states in search of cheap labor, new construction, and tax incentives, and, eventually, on to nations far beyond the US borders.

Then, this past Monday night, manufacturing -- manufacturing jobs in particular -- was center stage as the presidential candidates aired competing claims about what they would do for manufacturing. I laughed, thinking that change in manufacturing -- if you can even lump manufacturing under a single label -- isn't driven by one person or one factor. You would have to go back more than a century to the days of Henry Ford and Eli Whitney with their advances in mass manufacturing to see where change in manufacturing was revolutionary. Most of the change is evolutionary and created by multiple factors.

Today we look at manufacturing as global, increasingly automated, often outsourced, and reliant on data. Every business sector is turning to data and analytics these days, but manufacturing actually was one of the first to recognize data's value.

As detailed in a special report available on the All Analytics site, The Internet of Things: Finding the Path to Value, "Manufacturers were awash in data long before the 'Internet of Things' or 'big data' terms were coined. They’ve been collecting and analyzing machine data for decades . Today, as they replace legacy equipment and systems, the quantity and accessibility of machine data continues to grow with wider network connectivity and deeper data collection capabilities."

It looks like the rest of the business world is recognizing what manufacturers have known for decades, quality and efficiency can be found through data analytics.

That brings us to Manufacturing Day, which its organizers say "is a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers".

Besides various online activities such as lectures, manufacturers are taking steps to inform and educate the public, in some cases opening their doors to that public, so we can see employees, machines, and processes in action. Other companies are inviting students to see what types of careers the manufacturing sector has to offer. Industry organizations are promoting scholarship programs.

You can get a sense of what "manufacturing" means today, and you just might see the IoT in action. Check out the special report linked above and the schedule of events at MFGDay.com. You will get a better sense of how manufacturing has evolved in the years since you might have memorized the sounds, sights, and smells of whatever factories operated near you.

James M. Connolly, Editor of All Analytics

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. As editor of All Analytics he writes about the move to big data analytics and data-driven decision making. Over the years he has covered enterprise computing, the PC revolution, client/server, the evolution of the Internet, the rise of web-based business, and IT management. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. Throughout his tech journalism career, he has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through publications including Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups and the Boston-area venture capital sector at MassHighTech. A former crime reporter for the Boston Herald, he majored in journalism at Northeastern University.

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Re: Manufacturing is data-friendly...
  • 10/8/2016 12:59:17 PM
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I remember my first teenage job, an electrician's helper. Not exactly an manufacturing job but I did work assembly-line like pulling wires in hundred of identical floor plan new construction apartments. I had heard this would be something that I would not want to do the rest of my life, as well, but looking back it wasn't too bad. Where's my time machine?

Re: Manufacturing is data-friendly...
  • 10/1/2016 2:49:35 PM
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There's already movement afoot to managing the IoT communication among manufacturing machines. I discovered while reporting from the O'reilly Solid conference a while back that MTConnect, a nonproprietary, open-source communications standard, was being established for manufacturing equipment and devices.  The protocol gives a standard for manufacturing devices to coordinate their production efforts.  

A manufacturing day can lift the exposure for these kinds of developments and give a focus for IoT annucnements that will certainly increase by the day!

Re: Manufacturing is data-friendly...
  • 10/1/2016 1:06:06 PM
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On the other hand, it may still be possible to have a services business without big data. Not so for manufacturing.

Manufacturing is data-friendly...
  • 9/30/2016 9:30:31 PM
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...but services? Nope. I'm in services so I envy my friends in the manufacturing industry. It's so much easier to count things over there.

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