The Role of Manufacturing in Economic Development
While big trends drive dramatic technological changes, people are the key to channeling technology for maximum competitive advantage. On the Automation World blog, Luigi De Bernardini’s point of view.
During the last 20 years, globalization has drastically changed the manufacturing world. No longer bound by geography, many companies moved their production elsewhere solely based on the reduction in labor costs. As a result, more-developed countries lost their manufacturing industry, and with it a significant share of jobs. Today, this trend is slowly reversing, due in part to the increase in the labor costs in many emerging economies, as well as to a revisiting of the factors which originally led to relocation.
About 15 years ago I worked on the implementation of a client’s first production management system. I was forced to use roundabout expressions to avoid using the term MES. The client did not have the slightest idea what it meant. Given that he already had some difficulties managing production processes manually, the idea to entrust the management of production to an IT solution really frightened him. So great was the difficulty to understand and accept the term MES, that the client coined an interesting acronym: MES = meglio esserne senza, or, in English, better without it.
Today, times have changed and attitudes in industry are much different. The term MES has become customary to identify the set of solutions used in industrial IT, replicated and implemented in ways that support production management and execution.
In a recent book, Make it in America, Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of the Dow Chemical Company, supports with passion the role that manufacturing production plays in the health of an economy. He says that today, more so than during any past period, production is vital and that the manufacturing industry can create jobs, economic health and growth at a level such that the services industry will never be able to do. In essense, he’s saying that not all industries are created equal.
Howevever, the current macro-economic scenario is deeply different than it was 15 years ago. Businesses must now strategically pursue a series of changes, both from an organizational productivity point of view as well as from a technological support point of view. The game is now be played on the basis of agility, responsiveness and innovation, with the fundamental support of technology and people skills. Workers who are prepared and informed will be at the center of the businesses of the future. They will provide the level of flexibility needed to meet the increasing demand for customized products.
It is in this significant mutation that even MES systems themselves are changing with respect to those seen 15 years ago. And this is why MESA introduced the term MOM in the second half of the last decade, embracing in it also the management of processes that regulate and coordinate the operations. The broader spectrum of operation goes beyond the technical execution of production and turns greater attention to organizational aspects.
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