How Technology is Transforming Manufacturing
Disruption in manufacturing is a reality that is here to stay. Companies that don't change their production process and approach to customer relationships face a real risk of business failure. To evolve successfully as a 21st-century business, every member of the organization needs to understand the four components driving the disruption. These include:
- Adoption of new technology: As little as a decade ago, people typically saw new technology for the first time at work. Today, many people first use a product at home and bring it to the job to demonstrate how it improves efficiency.
- Customer expectations: With product information and reviews readily available, people make buying decisions on their own rather than rely on a company's selling points.
- Converging industries: Industries used to operate as separate entities and only come together to exchange information. The current trend is to use the most capable person or even machine to get the job done, such as an architect completing work that typically is the domain of an interior designer, or a robot taking over a manufacturing assembly line. This has been compounded in recent years with the evolution of machine vision and 3d sensors.
- Changes in buyer demand: People are no longer content with a product that looks like everyone else's does. Companies must adjust to the fact that customers expect more customization options to make the product unique to them.
Today's Workforce is Radically Different
People no longer work in the same manner to produce consumer and industrial products as they did in the past. With today's workforce, it's entirely possible for a group of designers and manufacturers to work collaboratively on a project without ever meeting in person. Not only does this level the playing field for solo entrepreneurs, but it also allows small companies to get their products in the public eye. There's never been a more critical time for existing manufacturers to adapt and expand their automated workforce. If inefficiency is the lock in survival for today's workforce, machine learning and automation is the key.
Crowdfunding has also changed the way that people raise money to construct new products. Design teams can skip the presentation to investors and go directly to the consumers for their input and financial support - immediately followed by selecting the most cost-effective manufacturer. It's this added pressure on the industry that has driven incredible innovation such as robotics perception software that works with existing hardware, improving manufacturing speed and driving down costs.
Top Trends Affecting Digital Factories
In 2015, Mesa International conducted a survey of manufacturers to identify the most prominent trends that were impacting the way digital factories operate. Nearly half of the respondents reported that they expect big data analytics to play a significant role in how they operate their businesses going forward. Big data analytics includes such components as real-time factory performance analysis, real-time re-planning, and real-time supply chain performance analysis. If they haven't already, most respondents expected to implement the Internet of Things and 3D printing technology to improve efficiency and remain competitive in producing useful products.
Leaders in the manufacturing world depend on big data analytics to help them adjust to the four prominent areas of disruption identified above. They have high expectations of it, including the ability to reduce operating costs and make efficient use of company assets. In fact, the 47 percent who reported an increased dependence on big data analytics expect it to become a core part of the way their business operates.
The takeaway message here is that people accustomed to technology and connectivity will expect manufacturers to produce better products in a more efficient manner. Those up to the challenge will thrive while those who refuse to meet changing expectations will lose out to the competition.