• By Bill Lydon
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By Bill Lydon, InTech, Chief Editor

Digitalization is creating tightly synchronized, real-time integration of business systems and manufacturing automation and is the next big step to increase productivity. Automation professionals who embrace this vision advance their careers with important roles in digitalization, participating in design, application engineering, and implementation.

The vision is to achieve manufacturing systems synchronized and optimized as part of the entire digital ecosystem encompassing customers, supply chain, production, logistics, and product life cycle. This level of integration requires greater automation, control, monitoring, and integration with other business systems.

Greater automation to accomplish these functions also addresses the shrinking labor pool and aging workforce by automating manual tasks. An important part of this process is capturing and automating the knowledge and know-how of existing personnel who are part of the aging workforce.

Rethinking manufacturing systems to become part of a broader synchronized business ecosystem requires the automation professional's participation with multiple groups in companies that enable people in traditional organizational silos to collaborate. Automation professionals already have the systems knowledge that can be applied in collaboration with other groups to achieve greater levels of manufacturing performance. Collaborative design, with multiple groups applying their respective subject-matter expertise, can create superior results.

Automation professionals have a responsibility to learn about and apply the new tools available to improve production and manufacturing:

  • new sensors, such as the application of new MEMS- (micro-electro-mechanical systems) based sensors
  • machine learning, analytics, and rules-based software tools
  • cloud services and capabilities
  • learning about applying standardized interfaces to efficiently communicate throughout the entire manufacturing business ecosystem

An important task is educating your company management that digitalization is important to remaining a viable competitive business and that automation professionals are a valuable resource. This is important work to ensure companies will be competitive on the world stage. Manufacturers throughout the world are applying automation technology to be more competitive, recognizing that low labor cost is no longer a winning strategy. The challenge is providing management with concise, meaningful information to help them learn. This should be one of the items on your task list. Some of the ways to educate management is giving them copies or links to meaningful articles along with your concise well-thought-out ideas for the digitalization of your company's manufacturing. Collaborating with information technology and manufacturing to develop white papers about the best ways to transition existing operations to digital manufacturing is a way to achieve cooperative creativity and valuable insights for management.

There are exciting opportunities for automation professionals who embrace the change.

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About The Authors

Bill Lydon is an InTech contributing editor with more than 25 years of industry experience. He regularly provides news reports, observations, and insights here and on Automation.com