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The Same Space at the Same Time

Aug. 17, 2022
Tempting though it may be, this is no time to hold off on technology investment.

We all have our favorites. I have cultivated a series of lists over the years to include favorite song (“Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan), favorite movie (“Network,” from 1975, which turned out to be a foreshadowing of 2022 American media) and favorite joke (Did you see the news story about a new corduroy pillow? It’s making headlines).

But my lists also tend to drift toward the obscure, including my favorite law of physics: Two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time. This axiom has a more formal title: the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which studies the molecular structure of solid objects. Common examples of this principle are seen in football games and car crashes.

Economics cannot be confused in any way with physics. Today we see two opposite forces existing in the same space at the same time. We see manufacturing growth existing in the same place as recession fears. We see productivity rising even in the midst of workforce shortages. We see output continuing to remain solid amid a supply chain crisis.

Manufacturers now must stand in one spot, buffeted by two opposing forces, and choose which way to turn. Staying in one place always is an option, but when you are assailed by competing forces, the results can be debilitating, frustrating and eventually unproductive.

There’s a lot to be said for stepping back and waiting for things to settle down. It’s a safe play to maintain production levels, hold off on technology investments for another day and try to wait for a calmer day and a clearer picture of the future.

As we head into the fall, there will be opportunities to see what technology in an age of digital manufacturing can look like. The future is on display at IMTS in Chicago in September and Pack Expo in Chicago in October. In this month’s issue of Machine Design, you will find the 2022 IDEA Awards Finalists. They represent the next wave of product and process innovation.

Embracing equipment investment and process improvement in a time of uncertainty seems like a dicey proposition. Yet despite the crises of the past three summers, we head into the final quarter of 2022 with a clear understanding of the value of digital manufacturing. We see the future of our industry, and the only real choice is to move forward. Staying where you are puts you at risk of being left behind.

Newton’s Second Law of Motion states that a body at rest remains at rest, while a body in motion tends to remain in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force. This law has a manufacturing application. If you’re trying to grow your operation from a static state, it’s going to take a lot more acceleration—in the form of time, money and training—to catch your competitors that already are moving in that direction.

What our fall trade events will demonstrate is that there have been plenty of innovations created over the past year that will help us accelerate our manufacturing growth. This is not the time to stay in the same place. This is the time to invest and grow manufacturing.

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