Making Technology Work for Manufacturing

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Manufacturing and technology have always had a… curious relationship.  At CIMx Software, we work at the intersection of technology and manufacturing, and it’s interesting to see how the relationship has developed.

Simple tips to help ensure technology works for your shop floor.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Simple tips to help ensure technology works for your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Technology needs manufacturing.  Without the support of a strong manufacturing base, and manufacturers willing to innovate, the latest technology won’t be available for the masses.  For example, most of us would still be riding horses if it weren’t for the manufacturing innovation of Henry Ford.

Manufacturing needs technology.  Manufacturing innovation is based on technology.  3D printing and additive manufacturing, mobile technology, paperless manufacturing and robotics are driving the latest advances in manufacturing.  To stay competitive and to lead the industry, manufacturers must embrace technology.

But, that’s not always what happens.  Some manufacturers are skeptical of technology.  Many times, that skepticism isn’t far from outright fear or loathing, and with good reason.   Even when the new technology is understood, its effect on the shop floor (after all… production must continue) may not be understood.  The cost of implementing the technology may lead to an ROI that will never be achieved.  It’s become a truth in the manufacturing industry – new technology holds both tremendous promise and tremendous risk.  A wrong decision can be ruinous.

We’ve seen technology implementations work in manufacturing, and we’ve seen them fail.  Here’s a few questions we’ve learned you should ask as you consider how your business will innovate:

  • Does the technology fit your current processes?

Unless the innovation will improve your current processes, you shouldn’t consider new technology that requires a major change in your shop floor processes.  The benefit you gain won’t outweigh the loss in productivity you will accrue as you implement the technology or struggle to make it fit.

  • Is the technology adaptable and flexible?

The one truth we’ve found in manufacturing is: change happens.  Many times, a new technology will address a single issue at a single point in time, and then will lose relevance over time as the industry changes.  Make sure the technology you implement will adapt as your shop floor and business adapts.  Make sure an update or adaptation process has been put in place in the technology.

  • Is it a custom solution?

Many manufacturers feel better when they have a technology solution built just for them, but this is a very costly and dangerous prospect.  The cost of maintenance, updates, and the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is significantly increased in a custom solution.  An out-of-the-box solution that has been configured for your needs will be able to meet your shop floor needs, and the maintenance and update costs will be significantly less.

  • Is it easy to use?

Technology only works when it is adopted and used by the people on your shop floor.  Many technologies we’ve come across are overly complex for no reason, or not designed with the end user in mind.  This is a sign of technology that’s still being developed.

  • Do you trust the provider?

When you purchase a new technology for the shop floor, you aren’t just buying the technology, but the provider.  Make sure you find a provider you can trust, and you know will be there when you need help.  A quality provider will offer fixed price proposals, and avoid expensive extra services.  They should be a company you are comfortable contacting, and you know you can get an answer quickly when you need it.

 

Manufacturing needs technology as much as technology needs manufacturing.  By following a few simple lessons, you can make technology work for your shop floor and continue to innovate.  As always, don’t hesitate to contact us with questions, we’re happy to help!

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