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Last year’s IPC APEX EXPO, which took place in sunny San Diego, seems to have taken place in a different world. This was a world where talks were held in front of a large crowd, not a monitor, and travelling to the other side of the world wasn’t considered a reckless risk.
By February 2020, however, we were starting to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Back then, there were a lot of things that we didn’t know, and more importantly, there were a lot of things that we had no clue that we didn’t know. The concept of “knowing what you don’t know” or figuring out the areas where one lacks knowledge is probably as important as acquiring the knowledge itself.
Coming “back to the future” and attending the IPC APEX EXPO 2021 virtually, it seems that we as an industry start to finally understand and discover the things that we don’t know. From the integrity and resilience of our supply chain to the failed digital transformations of the past, it seems that the electronics manufacturing industry starts to realize that change is difficult, but also inevitable.
Changes, Revolutions, Evolutions
Ever since the term “Industry 4.0” was coined back in 2015-16, there were several technologies that seemed to lead the way to the “promised land” of transformation. We believed that big data, IoT, IIoT, AI, ML, autonomous vehicles and so many other technological advances would radically change our operations and deliver the holy grail of billions of dollars of savings. While being a firm believer in the benefits of all these technologies, the reality, as we were brutally reminded in the past 12 months, is much more complex. At the end of the day, to paraphrase Travis Hessman’s keynote speech, digital transformation was never supposed to be a revolution, but rather an evolution.
There’s no silver bullet that will magically solve all of our problems and I think the 56% of manufacturing companies that are still waiting for the right use case for digital transformation or the 60% of digitization projects stuck in the “proof of concept” stage are a testament to that. Revolutions are tough, but evolution is a continuous process. Instead of focusing on Industry 4.0, 5.0, or whatever might come next, we should adapt our mindset to one of a continuous evolution and treat digital transformation the same way we treat quality.
To read this entire article, which appeared in the 2021 edition of Show & Tell Magazine, click here.