Manufacturers face increased energy costs while the "China factor" is pushing down the prices their products can fetch. The result is that razor-thin profit margins are narrowing. Still, this downtrodden industry sent 35,000 people to the recent National Manufacturing Week trade show. Why?
Many were scoping out IT products and implementation ideas. Currently IT represents the best way out of manufacturers' profit-crushing conundrum.
The SAP Manufacturing solution exhibited, for example, uses analytics to speed response to new customer requirements and identify changes in demand. SAS's Demand Intelligence for Manufacturing is BI technology aimed at balancing accurate demand forecasting against optimal inventory replenishment and pricing strategies. Avantis launched its Condition Monitoring Solution for collecting and aggregating real-time data from the plant floor and then analyzing it for predictive maintenance. Freudenberg IT announced software that queries and integrates inventory, shop-floor, machine and ERP data to cut supply-chain costs.
Many of the newest solutions are made possible by the commercialization of technologies such as Web services, service-oriented architectures and, perhaps most significant, RFID.
It's not difficult to understand the concepts behind RFID, but implementing it is an arduous task, and many manufacturers have done so in a quick-and-dirty, as-needed manner. One important take-away from this conference was that RFID represents an opportunity to streamline the supply chain and asset management to great advantage. Companies should work now on strategic RFID plans.
— Rajeev Kasturi