This piece was originally published in the September/October 2019 issue of electroindustry.
At NEMA, our primary function is to develop Standards that help manufacturers and their customers readily adopt technologies while assuring safety, efficiency, reliability, and usability and anticipating future technology evolution.
For instance, the Industrial Internet of Things contains many different forms of technology that touch every manufacturer and nearly all of their products. Not only can producers better oversee factory processes, but they can gain valuable insights through data collection and analysis.
According to Accenture, using IIoT technologies, products, and services in industrial settings may add $14.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
Through the Strategic Initiatives program as well as discrete Section work, NEMA promotes IIoT adoption through North American and international technical Standards and best practices. This ranges across smart manufacturing, augmented reality, digital twin, and additive manufacturing to name a few applications.
Just as IIoT allows manufacturers to see and respond to information more quickly, NEMA is rethinking and modernizing how Standards are developed to make the process more agile and responsive to industry trends.
Under the current process, technical experts pool their experiences to identify a consensus approach to determine the need for a Standard. Once a Standard is developed, minor changes are made to fine-tune the specifications over time. Typically only after a significant event is the need to update the Standard apparent. Consequently, the process tends to be reactive and slow-moving.
What if Standards committees regularly looked beyond the immediate product for ideas in adjacent industries? In an IIoT-enabled system, remote sensors gather data which is used to improve an existing manufacturing process. Could Standards committees use other sector Standards as “sensors,” incorporating the learnings from them to make changes to NEMA-relevant Standards more proactively?
Consider the airline industry.
Today, nearly every major plane uses computer-controlled autopilot. Without the benefit of millions of lines of code, a complex array of sensors and other monitoring equipment, these planes would not function at the high degree of safety and efficacy they do.
The airline industry invests significant time and effort to both embrace modern technology and to assure its usability across the widest spectrum of circumstances. Cars move slower than planes, but like aircraft they are increasingly possessed of high degrees of automation. Thus, industry Standards have to be more anticipatory and quicker from conception to delivery. One might ask rhetorically how is a modern manufacturing plant and the products it produces any different? What can NEMA Members learn from the challenges the airline and automobile industries face?
Our companies pride themselves in making products that are safe, reliable, and efficient. As systems become more complicated—not the least owing to becoming more connected—creating Standards in the traditional manner seems no longer to be an option. Just as the Internet of Things has changed our lives—and the Industrial Internet of Things is uprooting traditional manufacturing— Standards development needs to evolve by integrating relevant data from new sources proactively and quickly.
Considering cross-industry learning seems an attractive place to start. ei