“Smart manufacturing is the first structural shift since Henry Ford launched the economic power of mass production.” Wow! That’s a monumental statement by the very credible Dean of Northwestern University’s college of engineering, Julio Ottino, who articulates the true magnitude of this transformation in his astute commentary about the coming technology-led boom in the Wall Street Journal today.
However, for those of us who sometimes wonder why the transformation to Smart Manufacturing hasn’t already started to skyrocket… he confidently closes that “it’s just a matter of when.”
In a meeting with President Obama’s former manufacturing czar Ron Bloom and CTO Aneesch Chopra last year, they tried to suggest its a “market failure.” They asked “If smart manufacturing is such a smart idea, why aren’t businesses already doing it?” However, Ottino’s points out how hard it is for people — even politicians and business leaders — to see the impact of these huge paradigm shifts. He takes us back 100 years to explain how true transformations take time — especially in manufacturing.
In hindsight it seems obvious that emerging technologies circa 1912—electrification, telephony, the dawn of the automobile age, the invention of stainless steel and the radio amplifier—would foster such growth. Yet even knowledgeable contemporary observers failed to grasp their transformational power.”
As the attached brief ppt points out based on a seminal paper by Stanford Economist Paul David – “Lessons Learned From Our Ignorance” — these transformations take time. The first all-electric factory in America didn’t happen until in 1920 – an incredible 40 years after Edison started the electrification revolution. [A.O. Smith in Milwaukee built the first U.S. all-electric factory according to industrial historians.] If we’re on a similar timeframe, it may be another eight years before we have the first all IT-driven smart manufacturing facility.
Unless we learn a few lessons from history…