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Wednesday, October 12 is a day that will stay with me for many years.

Why? It was the day Shop Metalworking Technology's web site was set to go live.

It was also the day that email and text messages on Blackberry devices in North America stopped functioning and I lost internet and phone service. I was dumbfounded and temporarily shocked by my lack of ability to complete the task at hand.

Like many who experienced sudden digital technology losses, I realized how dependent I was on technology and how without it, I could do very little.

It also made me think of the smart technology that many manufacturers are now incorporating into their operations - e.g. MT Connect/Partners in THINC machine-to-machine communication, remote machine monitoring and lights-out automation - and what impact the loss of such technologies would have on a manufacturing environment.

Aside from the obvious costly and possibly disastrous production interruptions, once we become reliant on technology to do the work for us, we tend to forget the manual steps to do the same work if that same technology fails. In short, our ability to respond to production emergencies of this nature is hindered by our dependency on the technology that does the work.

Of course, such disasters are, thankfully, rare. The point is, we should always remind ourselves that smart technology, albeit the right direction to take for manufacturers to become more competitive in the global marketplace - is smart until it's not and we should have a backup plan for when things go wrong.

As for my temporary digital technology loss, it all worked out. The little red light on my Blackberry began to flash again, my internet and telephone service came back and once again I became immersed in my work.

I applaud smart technology and over the years, I have commented about the importance of it for manufacturers. We simply need to ensure that smart technology doesn't make us stupid.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Editor, Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine

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