Monday, September 15, 2014

Dream It – Make It at IMTS
By Julie Fraser, Lifetime Member of MESA International

What can you imagine designing and making? Dream as big or small or complex as you’d like…Someone can probably make it, and quickly. At least that’s the big impression I came back with after visiting the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) last week.

In the central area between exhibit halls, a group of partners were using additive manufacturing to build a car. Another company had a machine laser-sintering very complex metal parts with multiple layers of open-shape patterns. 

The technologies on display illustrate that discrete manufacturing is changing fast. While the same categories of equipment, tooling, supplies and software were on display as decades ago, the capabilities are quite different. The skills needed to use the equipment and tools are much more sophisticated than when I first attended years ago.

With my software focus, I spent most of my time seeking out those types exhibitors. Today’s software is more intuitive, so it allows much more efficiency. It also has capabilities that allow people to do things that were outside the scope of our imagination 20 years ago. 

Here are four observations about next-gen software on display at IMTS: 
  1. Job shop enterprise software has much broader scope than even a few years ago. Many of these products now include some credible manufacturing execution and some have realistic costing capabilities. MESA Members Dassault, Epicor and Forcam were here. 
  1. Product design software has moved from a hodgepodge of specialist tools to many that are either broad platform-based suites or intuitive enough for non-CAD-trained people to use them to collaborate. Some that are both. MESA Keystone Sponsors Siemens and Dassault had impressive suites to display.
  1. Many products for ERP, MES, PLM, and CAM now run in the cloud, a benefit for the many smaller job shops that don’t want to manage IT infrastructure and staff but do need sophisticated and secure software.
  1. Metrics and analytics software were also available.
The wealth of innovative technology available today means that discrete manufacturers that invest wisely can break out of their molds and be highly competitive. All of us who have been watching and encouraging the use of IT in manufacturing can see our dreams coming true. 

With over 25 years of passion and experience as a manufacturing systems industry advisor and researcher, Julie Fraser is Founder and Principal of Iyno Advisors Inc. and a lifetime member of MESA International, joining the organization in its first year. Fraser believes manufacturing matters and work is life, not something you balance with it.


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