Modern Machine Shop

NOV 2017

Modern Machine Shop is focused on all aspects of metalworking technology - Providing the new product technologies; process solutions; supplier listings; business management; networking; and event information that companies need to be competitive.

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16 MMS November 2017 mmsonline.com MARK: MY WORD Commentary Prescriptive or Descriptive? What should manufacturers be doing right now? One urgent exhortation is to connect machine tools and other production systems to share data, then use this data to improve performance. Com- puter networks based on internet technology make this a compelling (and practical) possibility. Getting connected, we can say, is a prescription, a directive, a recommended course of action. What will being connected look like for manu- facturers? What should we call this emerging state of connectedness? Here we have a wide, and sometimes confusing, choice of terms we can apply. Digital manufacturing, intelligent production and the smar t factor y are some appropriate descriptions that can be used to characterize this new way of organizing and managing the produc- tion of parts and finished goods. Other names for this visionary concept are Industry 4.0, the fourth Industrial Revolution and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Noting the distinction between prescriptive and descriptive usage is impor tant because it brings greater clarity to the barrage of pronounce- ments about these developments. When these concepts are discussed, it helps to think about the speaker's viewpoint, although the intent of their statements is often a muddle of the prescrip- tive and descriptive. My impression is that descrip- MARK ALBERT EDITORIAL DIRECTOR MALBERT@MMSONLINE.COM "On the shop floor, thinking and acting must be eminently purposeful." Companies need to do the right things to prepare for the future. Having the right names for that future state is less important. tions of Industry 4.0 and IIoT predominate, whereas practical examples of how to implement these concepts are underrepresented. Pundits aplenty are telling manufacturers that they better get on the digital bandwagon, or else they will be over- taken by competitors. Yet detailed advice and step-by-step instructions are rare, and these often amount to admonitions to address "soft" manage- ment concerns such as transforming company culture, the need to communicate, staying in touch with customers and so on. However, life on the shop floor is not experi- enced on an ideal or theoretical plane. It's about getting things done—making good par ts and delivering them on time. On the shop floor, think- ing and acting must be eminently purposeful. This is why I've been harping on the theme of using data from connected systems to make better decisions about manufacturing processes. This formula explains and justifies steps shops are taking in this direction. The ar ticle star ting on page 88, for example, boldly recommends the merits of installing machine monitoring to this end. As companies adopt such innovations and work through the minor (or major) disruptions that result, their experiences and insights can impart lessons to their peers. We are working hard to bring these success stories to light, taking pains to explain the critical details of new technology along the way. In the context of what these lead- ing shops are accomplishing, it is accurate to say: Here is manufacturing that is data-driven and digitally integrated; here is part production that is intelligent because knowledge and information are the controlling elements; or here is a factory that is smart in the sense that people, machines and computers are reasoning, analyzing and learning together.

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