Nolan’s Notes: What Are We Waiting For?


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Someone spoke up over the din of editorial conversation about upcoming magazine themes, “I think the magazine tagline should be ‘Factory of the Future: What the hell are we waiting for?’”

Now picture this: A bullpen office space with a big table in the middle of the room. It’s slightly chaotic, with a bit of draft copy strewn about, some audio-visual equipment on a side table, ready to grab-and-go. Sunlight seeping in through partially closed blinds, creating sunbeams in the slightly dusty air of the room, the smell of fresh coffee, donuts, and shoe leather assaulting the nose. Feels just like the set for the 1960s-era Village Voice as portrayed on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” doesn’t it?

Except it doesn’t look anything like that at all. I misled you a little with that description because that’s the kind of environment journalism is expected to work in. That’s still the “present” in media, isn’t it? Sure, the sets for the big news channels don’t look like that, but that’s the point; it’s a set, not the real offices behind the back wall. It’s just not how we work at I-Connect007.

No, our editorial meetings are teleconferences and have been for about 12 years. There is no physical headquarters. There is no bullpen office with an oversized table. We all work from our home offices or, if we’re traveling, from a hotel room. Instead, we all sit around our respective computer screens for our creative sessions.

I will admit that what I miss most about the old days is the smell of those donuts. Nothing said “sit back and let your brain spin up creatively” like the sugar and yeast high only a donut can give you. But I digress. The donuts didn’t make the editorial team more productive; nor did that bullpen office, to be honest. It was simply the best, most efficient solution available at that time. But times have already changed.

The “media of the future” is now, and has been for some time. Barry Matties, our publisher, is unabashed about the fact that we need to be constantly changing, improving, updating, and trying new methods to bring the stories to the industry. As a company culture, we’re trying the newest things as they’re introduced to the market. Why? Because by the time we learn what the new technology can do for us, it’s now ordinary. If you wait to learn about it until it’s in the mainstream, you’re too late.

Which brings me to the point of this issue: The future, ladies and gentlemen, is now. The Factory of the Future is a reality in some parts of the globe. So, if you and your facility aren’t already migrating to Industry 4.0, you’re at risk of being left behind. That’s the message in our detailed interview with IPC Chief Technologist Matt Kelly, who follows up on his IPC APEX EXPO comments. That same message comes through loud and clear in our interview with Michael Kottke, CEO at Rocket EMS. His team has been implementing a digital factory environment for 10 years. Talking to Kottke helps you see where you’ll be in five years, if you start now. I’m cutting my time estimate in half because Kottke and his team took a DIY approach at a time when there were no off-the-shelf solutions to even consider. It’s a different world out there now. Which is why we also include additional perspectives from Aegis, Siemens, and Arch Systems.

Oddly enough, the topic I mention last is arguably where we all want to start: data security. To digitize your factory is one thing; to keep all that digital information safe is something else entirely. I met Ryan Bonner, CEO of DEFCERT, at the EMS Leadership Summit in San Diego in January. After a great conversation there, I called him to discuss data security issues in the context of a digital factory. While Ryan has plenty of first-hand experience in electronics manufacturing, he also draws from other industries to leverage their best practices. The key takeaway is that manufacturing sectors considered less high-tech than us are further along in digitizing their factories than the industry that’s manufacturing the electronics they’re using. Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

There is a call to action here: Make your plan and implement it. Do what you need to do; it does not require buying all new equipment. There are other ways to get the data you need. But start to capture the data and then use it to optimize your business practices. Once you do, you will be—like Michael Kottke—addicted to the business intelligence you now have at your fingertips. What are you waiting for?

This column originally appears in the April issue of SMT007 Magazine. Be sure to download the PDF of this magazine to your library.

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