CIM ’99: find tomorrow’s tools today

CIM ’99 marks a turning point for industry. As 2000 looms, fears about the millennium bug will quickly be superseded by the need for manufacturing industry to put an e-business strategy in place. After a slow start, manufacturing is reckoned to be second only to the financial sector for IT spending. UK manufacturers are expected […]

CIM ’99 marks a turning point for industry. As 2000 looms, fears about the millennium bug will quickly be superseded by the need for manufacturing industry to put an e-business strategy in place.

After a slow start, manufacturing is reckoned to be second only to the financial sector for IT spending. UK manufacturers are expected to spend £3.5bn on IT this year, according to Benchmark Research. Spending will continue to grow, driven by global competition and pressure to get products to market faster.

Last year CIM attracted over 13,000 executives and this year is likely to be bigger, as companies recognise the need to catch the latest trends in business improvement tools.

This year, senior executives will have their work cut out trying to absorb a flood of new product launches and innovative ideas, spread over 300 exhibitors and four sister shows: Networks in Manufacturing, Control Systems Integration, Process IT and Design Technologies.

Satellite events focus on core technologies for manufacturing management, including CAD/CAM, enterprise resource planning, supply chain management and data capture. There will be numerous displays of integrated manufacturing, with an emphasis not just on integrating operations within an organisation, but on improving the flow of information to outside suppliers and customers.

Internet-based technologies will enable exchange of product data throughout the supply chain, from plant to plant across the globe. The big question is how many software products will prove to be really useful, rather than just hyped `vapourware’. It’s worth asking suppliers how many and what kind of user sites they serve, as action speaks louder than press releases.

Apparently three quarters of UK factories have an internet connection but only 41% have a website. Though electronic data interchange has been adopted by 35% of manufacturers for trading directly with certain customers, only 5% use the internet for trading. Benchmark Research reports that one in every five employees in manufacturing has access to a PC, so there’s no excuse for companies not jumping into the internet or intranet trading arena.

Enterprise resource planning systems, now commonplace in large organisations, are rapidly finding favour in the medium-sized market in the shape of off-the-shelf packages. Customer relationship management packages, widely used in the retail business, will gain higher profile in manufacturing, helping companies get closer to customers and building e-commerce links in the business-to-business sector.

A programme of over 150 free user seminars at CIM ’99 will cover most aspects of e-business. Five Net Visions debates will identify key trends in the next five years by leading vendors, suppliers and users, while CIM 99 will host several Industry Centres of Excellence seminars (see pages 4 and 6), aimed at automotive, aerospace, process, electrical/electronics and mechanical engineering companies. Brief consultant clinics complete the picture.

At a time of massive change in the industrial business arena, CIM ’99 offers a great opportunity to find the tools for tomorrow’s business today.