A look back at the future

Editor in Chief Joe Feeley introduces November's look back at 2006, and tells us what to look forward to when we next meet in 2007, Control Design’s 10-year anniversary.

Joe FeeleyBy Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

WHEN WE planned the focus of Dan Hebert’s year-in-review cover story ("Trends in Consolidation and Globalization"), we really didn’t want to follow a cookie-cutter formula of rounding up 10 items of disputable importance to briefly summarize.

It quickly became clear that we should focus on just two issues that affected many machine builders this year: the globalization of the industrial machine builder market, and the actions of consolidator companies that gobble up smaller machine builders for reasons that aren’t always in the interests of the acquired OEM.

Dan saw a relationship between the consolidated entity and its ability to compete globally, hence the decision to focus on those two issues. I’m very curious to hear your reactions to his approach.

I need to use this column to do a bit of looking back over 2006 as well, in order to tell you what to look forward to when we next meet in 2007.

Two major initiatives we began in 2006 will continue next year, and they both need your involvement to be successful.

In March, we’ll update our study on your product research, specifying, and buying habits. The impact of the Internet is an obvious big change, but there’s a lot going on about how machine builders perceive the help they get from automation suppliers in order to make good choices.

We’ll be hounding you relentlessly during the next few months to go to ControlDesign.com to participate in the study. It has great potential to improve the support you get from the supplier community, so it really will be in your interest to add your voice.

We started our Control Design Innovator Awards last year with recognition of three industrial OEMS. We have grand plans to expand its scope, find more of those industrial machine builders that have been unafraid to use available new technologies, and have the results to show for it. We’ll announce the 2007 award recipients in the April issue.

You can nominate your own company, or be nominated by one (or more) of your customers or automation suppliers. The evaluation of candidates takes a while, so it’s certainly not too early to get started with the process.

Finally, let’s have a show of hands, please. How many of you know that 2007 will herald Control Design’s 10-year anniversary?

That’s a big deal to us, so we’re aiming to have some fun looking back over the past 10 years of evolution and step change in industrial machine automation.

We’ll reminisce some about the capabilities, form factors, costs, etc., of machine control solutions being done in 1997, versus how they’ve changed—or, in some cases, not changed—in 2007.

Ten years is both a long and very-short time frame when technology is involved. The open, digital world certainly had arrived in 1997, but how many of us were dependent on e-mail for business correspondence, let alone to alert us of customer machine problems? What percent of machine operating systems had moved to Microsoft to play with object-oriented programming? There are lots of other comparisons to explore.

I’m looking for volunteers from Machine Builder Nation who would like to tell their stories and relate thoughts about how things have changed over these 10 years. Almost any machine automation area is fair game. They can be short kernels of experiences or article-length perspectives. That’s up to you. I expect that the supplier community has a lot to say about the changes, as well.

Get in touch with me or any of the editors if you’d like to take part. We’ll make it a worthwhile adventure.

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