Michael C. Pelletier, MBA, MCS
Partner and Chief Innovation Officer
As a manufacturer, your day likely involves concerns around keeping your customers satisfied, ensuring that your plant floor is operating efficiently, having enough inventory on hand to meet demand or getting your job delivered on time. These are some of the many challenges facing a manufacturer. Technology can help ease these concerns and in fact, transition these concerns into a competitive advantage.
Everywhere we look, both here in Connecticut and throughout the nation, the largest internal investment being made by businesses is in new technology. The recently released CBIA/BlumShapiro 2016 Survey of Connecticut Businesses—an annual report that provides a snapshot of Connecticut’s business climate, based on what the business owners themselves are saying—showed that more than one in four businesses are primarily investing in technological advancement, even outpacing investments in new facilities and employee training.
The truth is in the 2016 workforce and the workforce of the future, this makes perfect sense.
In business, the common leadership imperatives are the desire to do three things: reduce costs and inefficiencies; increase revenue with Line of Business (LOB) assets and create new business models. The latter is probably one of the most interesting and where cutting edge technology takes center stage.
Digital transformation is what’s going to help companies achieve those three objectives, as 86% of CEOs think digital is their top priority. Digital-manufacturing technologies will transform the manufacturing value chain from research and development, to how things are designed, made and serviced, as well as to how they are marketed and sold.
Take cloud computing as an example. Manufacturers are under consistent pressure to accelerate product development and simplify supplier, distribution and service interactions. Microsoft Office 365 provides enterprise grade and fault-tolerant email, document management, instant messaging and web/video conferencing on a low-cost, per-user per-month basis that is scalable to businesses of all sizes. Cortana Analytics allow the mounds of data being generated to become useful through intelligent insights. And Microsoft Azure provides a flexible platform upon which to build and deploy traditional or new applications. All of these applications are made possible by Cloud-based innovation, and all are helping businesses in impressive ways.
Next is the Internet of Things (IoT) and predictive analytics; the modern business environment is all about connectivity and it extends to everyone. We’ve reached an inflection point where hardware has become more adaptable and less expensive; with the Cloud, it is now possible to ingest data from thousands of sensors and actually do something with it.
To this end, businesses that invest in augmenting their existing equipment with sensors will see significant opportunities for improvement when they start analyzing the data. This can come in the form of predictive maintenance—we can now know ahead of time when to carry out maintenance to avoid significant business downtime, whereas in the past we previously had to rely on personal experience to know that things were working correctly.
The bottom line is, with an aging workforce—another key finding in this year’s survey, as we learned an ever-increasing number of business owners are planning to retire in the next five years—many industries, including manufacturing, need to start thinking about how they transition more of their day-to-day operations from an art to a science. Institutional memory remains important, of course, but as new people replace older workers at an increasing rate, it cannot be the sole factor upon which to rely. Those who make the right investments in the technology of tomorrow are the ones that will find themselves ahead, and prepared to meet the needs of a new business paradigm.