Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat is a children’s story that has been enjoyed by generations. The premise of the story is that on a rainy day the Cat shows up to brighten the dullness with a bit of fun for the children. The Cat happens to bring a couple of anthropomorphic friends known only as Thing 1 and Thing 2.
It is hard to imagine anything getting more buzz in the manufacturing world than the Internet of Things (IoT). There are blogs upon blogs and articles upon articles about connecting to smart machines and devices. This connection will foster the harvesting of extreme amounts of data that will allow us to garner unparalleled understanding and push towards unprecedented benefits. IoT is the “bit of fun” that has arrived to brighten the dull manufacturing floor.
It occurs to me that in all of this discussion of IoT there is something missing in terms of connectivity. The bulk of the dialog surrounding IoT is about making machines that are more brilliant and deriving increased understanding through intimate machine analysis. The most brilliant thinking devices on the factory floor continue to be the people working there. We have not even begun to harness the power of Thing 1 and Thing 2.
As you may remember, Thing 1 and Thing 2 are a bit unruly in Dr. Seuss’s tale. They fly kites in the house, bump around and cause a fair bit of mayhem. I don’t mean to equate this chaotic behavior to floor-level personnel. What I do want to point out is that Thing 1 and Thing 2 are where the majority of the action is in Dr. Seuss’ story. Correspondingly, I believe that the personnel on the factory floor are where most of the action is in the manufacturing story.
With the exception of highly automated plants that produce high-volumes of consumer products and the like, much of manufacturing is still done in modest volumes in work cells or with semi-automated equipment. There are manual touch points everywhere in terms of machine operation, material staging, operator intervention, quality inspection and knowledge-based decision making. In practical terms of driving increases in operational effectiveness, these plants can actually benefit more from a closer connection to the operator than a deeper knowledge of the machine.
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