At a conference last month, I sat in a room with several product managers from different OEM companies. The speaker was there to talk about the value of cloud computing and why the current trend was continuing to escalate into all markets, including manufacturing. He was quite convincing. He addressed the biggest concerns over privacy and security of data and concerns over a loss of control. He discussed at length the tremendous cost advantages and the ability to rapidly achieve value and reduce project life cycles. Real time continuous improvement and reduced maintenance management costs were also key elements in his message. I was convinced, but I was already a believer before he spoke a word. It’s part of my DNA to be looking outside of what we do today, and I have been absorbing everything I can on this subject for quite a while. I guess I am always trying to find a better way. That same DNA gets me in trouble sometimes, for I will sometimes pursue a solution based on innovation and technology before the market and the users are ready for it. Is that the case now with Cloud Computing in the industrial and manufacturing world?
After the speaker was finished, the time came for questions and answers. The crowd in the audience wasn’t as convinced as I was. As a matter of fact, some very smart people took the immediate position of, “Great stuff, but not for my customers.” Can you explain further, asked the speaker. “It’s simple,” explained the product manager of a well known OEM, “Customers in manufacturing will never embrace the use of this technology even if it is in a private cloud.” He wasn’t alone in his opinion. There were dozens of brilliant engineers and sales people in the room who quickly jumped to his defense and the conversation evolved along these lines for about 15 minutes before the speaker reached the point of exasperation. It was like trying to convince Eskimos that global warming was going to change their world when it was still 60 degrees below zero in the igloo.
Ok, it was my turn. I had to chime in. “Do you think the folks selling electric relays and manual processing made the same argument against the PLC and DCS 30 years ago?”, I said. I persisted further, “The man just showed you how your customer can deploy superior technology in one half of the time at one third of the cost. Do you really think that we can continue selling what we have if the customer is going to have that kind of option?”The truth is that everyone was correct. There will be a big part of the market place that will resist the change and rationalize why they should continue doing what they are doing today. They won’t go out of business, based on that choice. Maybe they will get left behind, but on the other hand they may do better than those who take the risk if the technology hits an unforeseen challenge. While Google and Amazon may not be the answer for the manufacturing plant floor applications, there will be solutions that evolve out of this technology shift. I said it a few months back. We are at an inflection point and the time is now to start paying attention.In my next article I will elaborate on one of the latest innovations in cloud computing that will bridge this gap between the inflection point of the cloud and the “not in my house” perception of the industrial market place. Stay tuned.by Marty Michael- Stating the Obvious –