Portland Business journal: Big tech means more jobs and higher wages, even for small businesses

By   – Managing Consultant, OMEP

In today’s rapidly-changing technology landscape, small businesses can feel isolated. How can you build a strategy for a toolset that feels increasingly out of reach or which you don’t fully understand?

Industry 4.0 and SMART Manufacturing are concepts meant to capture the idea that many hardware and software advancements will reshape the manufacturing environment.

When it comes to these technologies, there is good and bad news for Oregon’s manufacturers.

The good news — costs of advanced technology are coming down while the technology is getting easier to integrate. The bad news — companies that don’t adopt new technologies will be left behind.

A recent study from McKinsey and Company tells us that manufacturers who adopt technologies in a thoughtful way improve production time and process control as well as decrease manufacturing costs even further than those who focus solely on traditional continuous improvement methods. The key here is thoughtful adoption of technology as part of a business strategy.

More good news — technology adoption doesn’t have to require massive shifts or be prohibitively expensive.

We’ve laid out a few technologies that come with a low barrier to entry for manufacturers looking to include them in their 2020 strategy:

  • Integrating sensors into legacy machinery is less costly than buying new machines. Sensors can easily capture and relay information on virtually every quantifiable measure of interest to a manufacturing line. As sensors have developed, so have the avenues for relaying that information back to centralized databases where it can be fed into software to help managers make more informed decisions on pace, equipment maintenance, and waste reduction
  • Additive manufacturing is an umbrella topic that covers advancements in 3D printing. The 3D printing industry has seen meteoric-like advancement in the range of materials that can be economically printed (from plastics to metals), the speed of printing and the adoption of certain sectors. In the past, this was thought of as a method to quickly produce prototypes, but more manufacturers than ever are using 3D printing to create final products.
  • Automation and robotics have also become more accessible with the proliferation of less expensive off-the-shelf products. Programming and maintaining these solutions has become less expensive as OEMs have refined intuitive programming interfaces so that shop floor employees can set up simple robotic procedures without a degree in computer science.
  • ERP systems are good at linking various aspects of a manufacturing business to empower supervisors and CEOs to make informed decisions about their businesses. In recent years, many ERP solutions have been developed to service small and niche manufacturing sectors.

Harnessed intentionally, these technologies are more than just a curiosity — collectively, they have the potential to make manufacturing businesses more efficient, cut costs, and reduce lead time, allowing companies to capture a greater share of their market.

To ensure you capitalize on these technologies’ potential, remember that any implementation of them should be a thoughtful part of a business strategy.

Learn how to build new technologies into your business strategy.

Kleve Kee brings over 25 years of experience in management and senior leadership to his work at OMEP. Specializing in bringing a continuous improvement operating philosophy to clients, Kee works within all levels of a company on operations, top line growth, financials for decision making, leadership, and strategy.

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