IndustryWeek\’s Manufacturing and Technology Conference, held last week in Raleigh, highlighted the continued infusing of technology into manufacturing … onto the plant floor as well as through product design. And it\’s a trend that electrical distributors can be uniquely positioned to support and can benefit from.
Key words that were used repeatedly included:
- Digital transformation
- Technology transformation
And, according to Bill Ruh, CEO of GE Digital, who was the keynote speaker, \”the business is in the early innings.\”
While some manufacturers, such as Rockwell, are well along the journey, distributors can differentiate themselves by gaining a greater understanding of where their customers are on their journey so that they can better support them.
And while distributor salespeople may not think these conversations are happening within their accounts, they typically occur at higher management levels were topics such as improving operations performance, improving asset performance, increasing efficiency or decreasing downtime are discussed. The plant floor / the maintenance department are implementing by the time the typical distributor salesperson hears of the topic.
Companies are seeking data from machines so it can be interpreted, analyzed, optimized and acted upon. These companies, and it is a cultural issue, seek to manage outcomes and potentially change their business models.
To get a sense of issues, consider the titles of these workshops:
- Seeking Common Ground for Smart Manufacturing
- Best Practices for Optimizing Operations Using a Digital Manufacturing Platform
- IoT: Improving Your Tool Set for Organizational Change
- Leveraging Smart Manufacturing for Digital Transformation
- Manufacturing Lean Digital Transformation at AGCO
- The ROI Factor: The Role of Worksforce Training and How it Fits into a Digital Transformation Strategy
- Downtime Reduction Activities: Creating Baseline Data in Preparation for Industry 4.0
- Hands-Free Computing: Voice-driven Wearables Built for the Factory Floor
- 3D Printing Beyond Prototyping
- Analytics that Matter
- Making Sense of Sensor Data: Adventures in Analytics
- Think BIG, Start Small – The Keys to Balancing Speed and Agility in Digital Transformation
And there were table topics on
- Smart Connect Factory (IoT, Smart Machines, Robotics, Augmented Reality)
- Analytics (Predictive and Prescriptive, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning)
There were robots on the exhibit hall floor and many companies that had technology offerings for companies to integrate into their processes.
A couple of booths I visited that could represent opportunities for electrical distributors included:
- MESA – MESA stands for Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association. MESA offers a number of training programs and workshops to help companies on their smart manufacturing journey as well as online resources. This could be a venue to help distributors become 1) more aware and 2) perhaps position to their customers as \”thought leaders\” by bringing some of this knowledge / education to their customers and into their local marketplace. Rockwell and Siemens are both Platinum sponsors of the association.
- Advo Training Institute – national trainers on arc flash, electrical maintenance, electrical safety and electrical consulting. Could be a resource for distributors conducting industrial expos.
- Amplexor – Amplexor offers a host of digital solutions to help manufacturers and distributors meet global compliance as well as position product content. A solution that caught our eye is language translation capabilities. For distributors, and manufacturers, who do business globally, this will be critical. And for those seeking to serve different user bases where English may not be the first language, can be a differentiating feature.
- LogicBay – a SaaS channel management system to support indirect channels. Their \”ChannelStack\” best in class solution can help manufacturers in their management of ecosystems or, when deployed by a distributor, can enhance relationships with key manufacturers while driving initiatives at the customer level. The system has CRM and Marketing Automation capabilities enabling distributors to deploy manufacturer, and self-developed, content based upon personas (different information for different roles / levels within an organization … can help you get higher when you don\’t know the players.)
And 90 exhibitors overall.
Coincidentally, ARC Advisory Group launched a Digital Transformation Readiness Assessment survey for companies to help them see where they stand in this journey.
According to ARC,
\”Whether it\’s called Industrial Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, or the 4th Industrial Revolution, industrial companies have begun to use available technologies to completely reimagine their business model, while many others have struggled with knowing how begin their journey.
For companies with the right mindset, Internet of Things or Industrie 4.0 platforms and technologies will open up major opportunities for improved asset performance, new service offerings, improved operational efficiency, and completely new ways of offering value to customers.
Learning more about technologies integration into the industrial segment can open new opportunities for industrially-oriented electrical distributors and help you differentiate within your segment. It increases your knowledge base and can help can a \”new seat\” at the customer table.
Here\’s the link to their survey. May be interesting for distributors to conduct this in conjunction with their customers?
Over the past couple of months there have been a couple of distributor acquisitions that may indicate a trend of distributors expanding their reach further into the automation space … bringing new resources to their customers. These were:
- BDI (a bearings distributor that also sells electrical automation and electrical materials) acquired Advanced Automation Controls in Lake Ariel, PA. AAC provides robotic and automation control solutions in the process and discrete manufacturing arena. They perform all facets of the systems integration business — from MES and SCADA applications to PLC, HMI, drive systems and motion control applications.
- Barr Thorp, a hi-tech automation distributor, acquired CPI Automation, a distributor in Denver
Given that many automation houses are relatively small companies, could we see electrical distributors seek to expand their reach to position to take advantage of the emerging digital transformation of manufacturing?
Are you hearing your industrial customers talk more about \”smart\”, \”IoT\”, \”digital transformation\”, \”Industry 4.0\”? How are you / can you bring the concept to your manufacturer customers and further support them with insights and product solutions (from electrical, automation, electronic and technology companies) to capitalize upon the opportunity.
And how could you capitalize upon the collective insights of your customers taking the ARC survey?