Many manufacturers struggle to capitalize on the latest technology, instead using outdated processes and tools. Embrace the digital shop floor in 2015 with breakthrough technology.
By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software
A Growing Divide around the Digital Shop Floor
As 2014 winds to a close and companies prepare for 2015, analysts and prognosticators peer into their crystal ball to analyze the future. This year in manufacturing, they predict Big Data and analytics, 3D Printing, robotics, and enhanced connectivity (via the Internet of Things and mobility) shaping our industry.
Its human nature to wonder at the future, and marvel at shiny new technology, but the truth is many manufacturers struggle to implement basic shop floor technology such as an MES or paperless manufacturing, much less capitalize on cutting-edge technology. These companies are faced with a massive Technology Debt – the total cost of replacing outdated technologies or systems as they begin to degrade the overall functionality of the company. This debt negatively impacts production throughout the supply chain, as companies struggle to meet market demands.
Consider this – Software Advice, a company that helps match buyers with software solutions, recently released a survey of manufacturers with annual revenues of $100 million or less on their reasons for purchasing new software. The survey found forty-five percent of prospective buyers managed manufacturing operations manually. They used paper, spreadsheets or accounting software to manage shop floor operations. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed sought a software solution simply to help plan and manage day-to-day manufacturing operation.
The Manufacturing Software Small Business BuyerView 2014 survey from Software Advice reveals our industry is at a critical junction. Some companies have embraced technology, while others struggle with outdated processes and tools. Unless addressed, this dichotomy will only grow, creating an almost insurmountable gap between manufacturers operating in similar industries and creating bottlenecks in the supply chain.
Paying Off the Manufacturing Technology Debt
Before we start looking to the future, it’s time to pay our technology debt. Fortunately, there are solutions. Consider this:
- The availability of lower-cost technology.
In the past, many companies, especially small- and mid-sized businesses, were reluctant to embrace high-cost solutions. With no guarantee of success, a failed project could mean ruin. Today, many companies are still reluctant to embrace technology, despite the availability of lower cost solutions. Browser-based software, low-cost software platforms, and integrated circuit manufacturing technology have made viable software solutions more affordable than ever.
- The improvements in configurable software solutions.
In the past, for specialized industries the only available and viable software solution involved custom software. Custom solutions cost millions with development scheduled over several years. Supporting the software was equally expensive. Custom solutions lose efficiency over time, eventually becoming outdated legacy code. Today, with improved technology, configurable, out-of-the-box solutions can be found to meet the requirements of every industry, in addition to delivering operational improvements.
- The efficiency in modern implementations.
According to the Software Advice survey, most companies prefer solutions that can be implemented in 1 to 3 months. While there are still solutions in the market requiring years to develop and implement, some solutions are designed to be implemented in a few months or less using modern project management techniques such as Agile. Improvements to the UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) have removed the unnecessary complexity of past solutions, minimizing the training time and improving the adoption rate of the technology on the shop floor. With modern software, companies are only as reliant on their internal IT resources as they want to be.
- Low-risk installation options.
In the past, custom shop floor software was a high-risk for purchase. A project required several years and millions of dollars to design, develop and implement with no guarantee of success. Today, lower-priced, out-of-the-box configurable solutions help mitigate the risk. Options such as pilot programs and phased implementations help ensure success by managing risk and the pace of change for your company. Look for vendors you can trust to partner with you during the project, instead of simply supplying software before moving on to another project or service charge.
Safely Embracing the Future of Manufacturing
As 2015 begins, it is important to look to the future, but it is equally important to consider the technology debt your company may have accrued. How much debt do you have? Growth and profitability plummet when debt accrues, and can negatively impact all facets of your operation. New software tools and platforms, phased implementations, browser-based technology, configurable solutions and more can now deliver practical, high technology solutions to all manufacturers, no matter the company-size or capabilities of the IT department.
In the past, many companies delayed paying their technology debt, but that is no longer a viable option. Customer and regulatory demands, new technology and processes, and changes to the workforce are driving manufacturers to adapt and improve. Without addressing the technology needs of the shop floor, companies risk losing their competitive edge and customers.
Companies recognize this fact. “As we move into 2015, I believe we will see more and more small manufacturing companies start to adopt software solutions that help better plan and manage day-to-day manufacturing operations,” explains Victoria Adesoba, manufacturing small business researcher at Software Advice.
As one year ends and a new one begins, we will see companies adopt 3D Printing, Big Data analytics, and robotics. For many more companies, 2015 will be about paying a rapidly growing technology debt – utilizing tools that have finally made it possible for small- and mid-size manufacturers to (safely and efficiently) embrace the digital shop floor.
Want to see how you can start paying down your technology debt and improve your operations with a low-cost software solution that offers an ROI in less than a year? Contact CIMx today to schedule a free evaluation of your shop floor.