If you’re not in the communication business now, you soon will be. The Internet of Things (IoT) will see to that.

Tires used to be round rubber that rolled down the street while channeling water away and grabbing the road. Now they are data generators communicating with the car’s electronic brains.

My mother used to set a mechanical timer to ensure the oven came on to cook dinner while we were at school and work. Now cell phones are used to record shows, start the oven, turn the lights on and ensure the temperature is comfortable when you arrive home.

But you’re not in consumer goods? Doesn’t matter. Whatever you make is part of a larger system. Expectations to communicate beneficial information among the system parts and externally grow daily.

Think of the black box in an airplane or train used to diagnose after-the-fact root cause of catastrophes. Isn’t the next logical step for all that information to become proactive?

If a metal part in the high temperature, high pressure of the jet engine is becoming stressed, doesn’t it make sense that the pilot be informed? Or the maintenance crew? Predictive analytics is one thing; actual in-use data is even better.

Communication, standardized protocols, and security will be mandatory competencies for many manufacturers that today don’t see themselves that way at all."

Communication, standardized protocols, and security will be mandatory competencies for many manufacturers that today don’t see themselves that way at all.

You’re just a machining center?  You may not need to worry about in-use data communications, but you may well need to work around embedded micro-electronics.

Your machining equipment is no doubt programmable. Is the next step for it to capture information about the metal it is shaping? Mill lot data and hardness test results are valuable, but actual performance of each cubic inch of material against the tools and methodologies may contain even more precious secrets.

Regardless of what kind of manufacturing business you are in, it’s never “just” anything. What you create has a purpose of making other things work more effectively. Data can help you do that better. Real-time, in-use data.

Buckle your seatbelts! This is going to be one heck of a ride. Can’t wait to reach the top of the next hill.