After reading Derek Singleton’s manufacturing blog post on “5 Technologies Driving Job Shop Competitiveness,” I came to the realization that my thinking is in complete alignment. In fact, there are other repercussions to Singleton’s list that I thought should be mentioned. So, for this blog entry, I will offer additional perspectives on each of these 5 key technologies, as a way of expanding this story.
- 3D Product Modeling Streamlines Design Process – significant technology advances have occurred in both the manufacturing and engineering fields, resulting in streamlined design and production processes for highly complex products. In order to capture all of these benefits, it is critical that each of your shop floor and design systems is seamlessly integrated. The concept of “siloed” operations is no longer a viable systems strategy, nor will it help with global continuous improvement initiatives.
- Laser Cutting Tools Create Precision Parts – new technologies are inevitable, creating opportunities for new product designs and production processes. When evaluating your current and future systems requirements, be sure to keep this “constant” in mind and consider how flexible your current IT system is … when the next technology breakthrough occurs you really don’t want to have to install a new IT system to support it.
- Shop Floor Software Improves Efficiency – what more can I say? You simply can’t expect to optimize your operations with a paper-based tracking system. Based on customer feedback I have heard, few disagree. The only question is will you implement your systems on a plant-by-plant basis, limiting your flexibility and performance upside potential, or will you embrace an “enterprise approach,” and build a highly agile system that operates as a platform for manufacturing operations that supports a suite of applications addressing your manufacturing operation’s needs.
- iPads Enable Workers to Be Mobile – the iPad is one of the most interesting technology breakthroughs I have seen in the past decade. Not only is the hardware revolutionary, but so too is the concept of adding apps to perform specific functions within an easy to use interface. Add to that the mobility technology factor, and it is clear that every software vendor must now have an iOS strategy.
- Outsource Marketing Muscle to Attract More Buyers – in the context of Derek’s article, his point is that you should really stick to what you do best, be it the designing or building of products. Other professionals should do other tasks, such as sales or marketing, as either a dedicated employee or an outsourced firm. This concept also applies to your supply chain. It isn’t necessarily the best strategy to build everything. Sometimes it makes perfect sense to outsource part of your production or assembly processes. The challenge to then overcome is how to best manage and incorporate this information into your overall IT system, while still retaining the necessary flexibility to adjust as your outsourcing partner’s technologies change.
In closing, manufacturers rely heavily on technology today. As a result, more processes have become automated and optimized through the use of IT software systems, driving reduced costs, higher quality and greater efficiency. In the end, consumers now have incredible choices and options when selecting new products, which is not a bad byproduct for all the work it took to get there!