There are several groups within the greater manufacturing/production community striving to build interoperability standards. They either are the customer or are representing the customer. The customer says, I don’t want to be locked in to a certain supplier. I may like that supplier’s products. But, they say, I just don’t feel comfortable being locked in such that any change causes more grief than staying put.

OMAC has a couple of working groups focused on interoperability. I sit in on the meetings of the machine tool working group (should it broaden its charter to “manufacturing” working group?). For the past dozen years, it has tried to promote the seamless interchange of data from CAD to manufacturing. The packaging working group has similar aims about helping customers with a certain level of standardization such that they can acquire machines that behave in a standard way–thus cutting commissioning and training time and expense.

The Open O&M group has been working on coming up with a standard data interchange such that the detailed information promulgated by engineering firms can flow seamlessly through the contractor stage and then be usable for the owner/operators (customers) as they operate and maintain the plant.

Doc Searles was one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto (markets as a conversation) and wrote a new book The Intention Economy. He mixes observation and analysis with his wishes, I think, but the idea is can technology move us from a one-way conversation (supplier to customer) to a conversation where the customer can signal intention to buy without giving away the farm.

I’m leading a session on Voice of the Customer at the ISA Marketing and Sales Summit. As I prepare, I’m interested. What do you think about this topic. Do you feel locked in? If you’re a supplier, do you think you can compete on the open market–or do you need lock in to preserve your sales base? What you (the customer) like to see in this seller/buyer relationship?

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