Under Control

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

This is the first in a series of personal technology notes from Dr. Dick Morley, CEO of Flavors Technology, Amherst, NH. We encourage readers to contact Dick with suggestions for future columns.

Mary Emrich, the "retired" executive editor, invited me here and I never could refuse a charming woman's request. The content will be technical trends and the future; views will be as personal as possible. It's an honor to be here.

Certainly one of the impacts on the technology is the trend towards globalization of the marketplace. No manufacturer wants to build product that can only serve a single narrow geographic niche. But how can we, as techies, put into the product the invisible cultural features and benefits that will guarantee success in the world marketplace? And can we suppress the all-too-common American "Not Invented Here" syndrome to take advantage of the technologies developed elsewhere in the world?

In 1988 I did a rump Delphi survey to ascertain future directions in the control industry. An update was done in 1990. Results were interesting to say the least. Many surprises. For instance:

Japan will de-emphasize manufacturing and focus on finance. Japan already has the majority of the world's top ten banks.

What does this mean to the designer and implementer of manufacturing systems in the good ol' USA? It means that we should play into our strengths and not our weaknesses. Any joint effort with offshore partners should be done with an eye towards the respective strengths of each and not done to correct weaknesses.

Let me cite an example. Recently the Russians approached US enterprises in order to mate the expertise of Russian machine tools and advanced American controls into a viable leading-edge market offering. This is an obvious matches in strengths. While the effort has many difficulties and may never happen, but clearly deserves a strong effort and investigation.

Another joint effort possibility is the availability of the Indian software expertise at low cost and high quality. Generally the work should be well specified and have a well thought out performance criteria. Using these resources relieves the US company's staff to pursue the more advanced and investigatory aspects of the software in the proposed products.

The lack of interest in the investment community for forages into the manufacturing technologies and, as usual, the short-term view of the US financial market opens the door for foreign investment, primarily Japanese. Again, the collaboration of Japanese money and US advanced system know-how takes advantage of each other's strengths.

We should take stock of the situation and work in our areas of strength, not weaknesses. We should not try to catch up but insist that others follow our leadership. As Americans, we should prepare for the future and try not to compete with the past.

As appeared in Manufacturing Systems Magazine January 1992 Page 42
http://www.manufacturingsystems.com



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