APIs (APPLICATION PROGRAMMING INTERFACES)
The tremendous growth of IT advances has a huge impact on manufacturing.
Anyone who dismisses staying up to date with IT developments risks being overtaken by the competition.
In today’s plant, integration is the name of the game. Applications, data and devices need to be linked on-site and in the cloud. We’ve talked here about Big Data, observing that while such a huge volume of data may be overwhelming, it’s tremendously valuable and needs to be harnessed.
APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are a crucial tool in the arsenal. Whether or not you know them by name, you’ve been using them for years. They are the software that enable two applications to talk to each other.
Here’s how it’s described at Mulesoft.com:
Each time you use an app like Facebook, send an instant message, or check the weather on your phone, you’re using an API. When you use an application on your mobile phone, the application connects to the Internet and sends data to a server. The server then retrieves that data, interprets it, performs the necessary actions and sends it back to your phone. The application then interprets that data and presents you with the information you wanted in a readable way. This is what an API is – all of this happens via API.
Examples include booking sites like Expedia, which communicate with airline websites and return info to you; accessing a Google map directly through the website of a store or restaurant; Instagram or Twitter embedded in a website; virtually any ecommerce which involves making a purchase through a website.
At Wikipedia they put it this way:
An application programming interface (API) is a set of subroutine definitions, communication protocols, and tools for building software. In general terms, it is a set of clearly defined methods of communication among various components. A good API makes it easier to develop a computer program by providing all the building blocks, which are then put together by the programmer. An API may be for a web-based system, operating system, database system, computer hardware, or software library.
Any up-to-date software you’re relying on at your plant is relying on APIs.
We Are All Tech Companies
The growth of manufacturing companies today depends on new technologies, equipment and IT innovations. We’re seeing an expediential growth of supporting functions and services. Like it or not, we are all becoming tech companies, even if we’re just manufacturing nuts and bolts.
To make the most of today’s huge multi-megabyte software programs, the IT system must be well designed and well managed.
APIs are crucial. They enable programmers instant access to multiple applications, essential to productivity and efficiency. They allow management the quick access to the database, necessary for timely decision making.
Treating the IT system like an afterthought risks operational bottlenecks as different programs with different access speeds struggle to communicate with each other. The sheer volume of data processed today demands a modern IT system, in which APIs play a big role.
Axway, a digital infrastructure company, shared a whitepaper titled Ten Ways to Modernize Your API Strategy. I found it helpful. You might too.