Smart Factory Insights: Trends and Opportunities at SMTAI 2019


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SMTAI is more than just a simple trade show. For me, it is an opportunity to meet face to face with colleagues and friends in the industry to talk about and discuss exciting new industry trends, needs, technologies, and ideas.

Many of these opportunities are accessible through the SMTAI conference program, which attracts strong interest from key companies in the industry. It is very valuable to have the opportunity to present and see the inspiration propagating around the room, gaining feedback from the audience members. Industry trends are made by people—a collective of opinion, experience, and aspiration. A key strength of SMTAI is the way in which everyone can engage with speakers and discussion groups, providing real business benefits.

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Of particular interest this year was the chance to speak with the SMTAI “Young Professionals in the Industry” group. With many years of pioneering technology and experience behind us, it is a different prospect today for young people entering the industry. The SMTAI group of young professionals showed themselves to be very clever and highly motivated, which should make them perfect candidates in a variety of key roles within manufacturing. Getting recognition of their potential contribution, however, can be challenging, where experience has driven value for a long time. In a new digital world of manufacturing, there is a need for new perspectives, which the young professionals have in abundance. Communication is the critical tool, aiding in understanding the nature of potential roles, as well as being able to show abilities to take it forward, building on what has already been created.

On the show floor, to the untrained eye, everything appears as expected—machines and solutions, both smarter, faster, and more efficient than ever before. The real opportunity, however, was talking with the people at the booths. Beyond the catchy headlines and graphics, some seriously clever people were there to talk about the values and opportunities that their latest technologies represent. In this age of IIoT-based connected digital factory, opportunities for software—at the machine, line, factory, and enterprise levels—have never been so exciting. Almost everyone has fresh, new ideas on the use of data connection to drive better quality and performance, bringing factory silos together as a holistic manufacturing “engine.”

As the show features so many different technologies, it is the role of the media companies to search out and highlight key areas of interest to the industry. I always look forward to participating in interviews and round-table discussions at SMTAI. The energy and momentum shared at the show are contagious, even with those who could not attend but can watch the various videos online. Such interviews get behind the marketing headlines to gain knowledge and insight into the benefits and opportunities, showing how each of the technologies is contributing to shaping the way of the industry going forward.

SMTAI represents a great balance of values, with a broad reach over the global industry; it’s a “must-attend” event for those seeking to differentiate themselves in the industry.

Michael Ford is the senior director of emerging industry strategy for Aegis Software.

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