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Page 36 of 135

DECEMBER 2021 I SMT007 MAGAZINE 37 ue, is not being taken seriously. As with cli- mate change, no one expects to create the ful- ly autonomous digital factory overnight, but manufacturers should be putting into place the education, skills and strategy needed that take smart manufacturing toward its end goal. Each company will adopt different paths, as priorities and soware selections differ. Hav- ing people in the organization with the right skills and expectation is essential. As holis- tic "AI" utilization within manufacturing is probably not on offer from most universities currently, human resource managers need to search for those candidates who are able to grasp the vision and methodology for manu- facturing digitalization, to grow their experi- ence and allow them to gain the trust within the organization. To achieve manufacturing digital transcen- dence, we need to know what we are tran- scending into, and trust those who are en- abling that journey for us, in this case, driv- en by incremental creation of benefits, all of which align to medium- and long-term busi- ness goals. SMT007 Michael Ford is the senior director of emerging industry strategy for Aegis Software. To read past columns or contact Ford, click here. Having people in the organization with the right skills and expectation is essential. To whatever extent software is "smar t" in today's world, it takes an inspired and in- formed user to get the most benefit from the soware's functionality, and to under- stand the real opportunities and limitations. To be afraid of the soware, to install it, and then, from a distance, expect to have it work without ongoing interaction and support is counterproductive. With mechanical auto- mation, we have accepted the necessity to keep an eye on the performance and efficien- cy, as maintenance and repair will ultimate- ly be needed. Soware does not wear out, and there is no need for users to get into the bits and bytes levels of detail, but it is essential to understand how the soware becomes pro- gressively integrated as a member of the over- all manufacturing resources team. As manu- facturing practices develop and evolve toward digitalization, more soware functions will be utilized, driving further benefits and new func- tional development, extending the reach of the soware "AI," creating further business oppor- tunities. For this whole scenario to be an acceptable part of manufacturing, there needs to be vis- ibility, trust, and flexibility between custom- ers and soware vendors that reduces the risk of any adverse issue. What is most effective is selecting the right tools that enable low-risk, trustworthy functionality, and interoperabil- ity, and that progress at a rate at which man- ufacturing practices evolve. Bespoke soware and middleware components should be avoid- ed, as by their static nature, and bring limita- tions and barriers which eventually trigger step-changes in solution choices. Products from companies offering holistic, yet fully in- teroperable solutions, based around industry standards and thought leadership, represent a great start. Customers of manufacturing operations to- day are expecting to see a plan. To not have a plan toward digitalization is increasingly be- ing seen as a wasted opportunity, a risk that competitiveness, and hence customer val-

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