Everything is a revolution today.
3D printing is a revolution, the Internet of Things is a revolution, just like collaborative robots, wearables, and drones. In their day, cloud computing, ERP, and even CNCs led their own little industrial revolutions.
I've never really understood the compulsion to use this term to describe technological progress—nor have I been immune to its usage. Through my years on the industrial tech beat, I have been as guilty as any click-baiting hypster for abusing the word for all the topics listed above plus many more we've all long forgotten.
I suppose it might be a kind of rallying cry in this field. "Something big is happening! It's going to change everything!"
And of course all of these innovations and emerging industries are very big, and some of them might actually change everything. But that doesn't make them revolutions.
Abusing the term "revolution" is a lazy shortcut that undermines the real story behind these technologies. Worse, it ignores the hardworking perseverance that brought them about.
3D printing is a 30-year-old technology born in labs and garages and slowly built up through the decades by countless hands and innumerable acts of independent brilliance. As I discuss in this month's cover story, the Internet of Things – or IIoT, or M2M, or whatever name you prefer—has taken that same steady course. In fact, the same is true of all of the topics listed at the top of this column.
Despite that—after all of the work put into these innovations by these teams of engineers, designers, and workers—once they hit the tipping point, we all throw up our hands and praise the miraculous new gadget that has sprung up ex nihilo, heralding a new epoch in the new industrial revolution.
But that's not the real story.
The real story behind these "revolutions" is the same one playing out on the floor of every factory in the world. It’s the same story guiding safety, bolt fastening, and basic operational efficiency.
Remember, these technologies aren't toys for the consumer world. They are industrial tools created to do specific jobs, and slowly improved over the years to do those jobs better.
In that sense, they aren't wrought from revolution; they're wrought from continuous improvement—a spark of progress pushed ever forward in the name of productivity.
In other words: these aren't magical gifts from Silicon Valley. They are the product of manufacturers doing what manufacturers do best: improving processes and doing more, better, with less.
So forget the revolution. Here's to hard work and steady progress.
New Equipment Digest