The Next Big Thing for Manufacturing: Search

At a day-long, high-level “conference-within-a-conference” at Rockwell Automation Inc.’s (www.rockwellautomation.com) annual RSTechED, the company’s user and reseller gathering, Microsoft Chief Information Officer (CIO) Stuart Scott sparked a lively discussion of what guru and author

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Geoffrey Moore (“Crossing the Chasm,” “Dealing with Darwin”) characterized as “the next metaphor” for the integrated enterprise: search. This year’s RSTechED, the 10th, was in Orlando, Fla., June 17-22. More than 1,400 Rockwell employees, users, distributors and resellers attended the overall conference.

In the executive session, Scott presented the three enterprise technologies that make possible Microsoft Corp.’s (www.microsoft.com) mass-customized production of a quarter-million digital video disks (DVDs). The product mix continuously changes, and each batch has a target of five days from order to delivery. Listing enablers from most important to least, Scott said the top is training, split between job competency (machine operation, clean- and white-room protocols, process methodologies) and cultural skills (plant objectives, Microsoft standards, team building). The second is search—Microsoft has a highly sophisticated search facility designed to bring people and answers together with a minimum of computer clock cycles. Coming in third: technological integration, including automation equipment.

Gotta find it

It is the growing success of integration and automation that has caused search to bubble up toward the top.

“Search is a completely new metaphor for what must happen for efficient operations,” Moore said.
The previous metaphor for running a business efficiently, he said, was the database and its reports the very foundation on which Oracle became an enterprise powerhouse, and ultimately, the technology behind Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. “Now, telepresence and unified communications are forcing us to move beyond a central focus on transactions, computers and databases,” Moore said. “With thousands of applications, tens of thousands of
data-generating nodes and millions of data points, getting answers more quickly [through search] is the real need. Answers may be implicit in all that we collect and store, but finding the answers is the real need.”

The invitation-only Manufacturing 2.0 Executive Conference echoed this year’s RSTechED theme the convergence of enterprise and manufacturing information technology (IT). In addition to Scott, presenters included Kevin Roach, executive vice president of Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation; Angel Mendez, CIO of Cisco; Bill Neal, director, Manufacturing Information & Control Systems, Eli Lilly & Co. ; Mike Jackson, CIO of Rockwell Automation; Moore, author of “Crossing the Chasm” and “Dealing with Darwin”; and industry analyst Bruce Richardson, chief research officer from Boston-based AMR Research Inc. Richardson is credited with creating the term, “Manufacturing Execution System.”

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