This is the time of year where businesses reflect on what they’ve done and develop strategies for improvement — much of that relies on finding new ways to use technology. Every new technology trend is “guaranteed” to alter the industry forever, however many manufacturers don’t know where to start.
These are a few areas that every manufacturer, regardless of size, should consider incorporating into their short, medium and long-term strategies.
- Robotics has already had an enormous impact on manufacturing. In the U.S., the trend is more toward “cobotics” or the combination of robots (to eliminate inefficient and redundant tasks) with human creativity (something robots are not able to do). If you want to gain a competitive advantage by eliminating constraints in both people and creativity, this is a great way to start.
- No technology has evolved as quickly as 3D Printing, which has gone from a neat concept to a viable business tool. Manufacturers of all sizes are using this relatively inexpensive technology to rethink their entire product development process.
- The Internet of Things (IoT) is a buzzword phrase but it simply refers to the idea that every device can communicate electronically through the internet. IoT will have a dramatic impact on all areas of the industry as customers continue to drive demand with expectations of improved reliability, proactive diagnostics, and real-time remediation.
- The Cloud refers to the ability to take advantage of massive computing power without investing in a massive internal IT infrastructure. The ubiquitous nature of high speed internet has been the catalyst for Cloud technologies. ERP, CRM, Financials, and most other line of business apps are already Cloud-based. This is a good thing. Manufacturing depends on efficiency and the Cloud creates an economy of scale that produces inefficiency in IT operations.
- Big Data is the ability to use analytics to analyze business operations more efficiently. This is made possible by utilizing all existing cloud based data sources in your operation. The interface is usually a web application that is built to allow executives to run “what if” scenarios. Examples would be things like, “show me how my production schedule is impacted by an increase in personnel” or “what would be the projected gross margin impact of a reduction in process time”.
The bottom line is, like every other area of business, successful manufacturers will have a strategic plan built around technology and innovation. These and other tech trends could all have a positive impact on your business — if you utilize them accordingly. Will yours be the company that watches its competition gain a permanent advantage or will it capitalize on the technology that surrounds us to become a global leader in 2017?