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Feb 16, 201711:45 AMMaking Madison

with Buckley Brinkman

That ain’t a tide — it’s a manufacturing tsunami!

(page 2 of 2)

As automation and robotics becomes more democratized, manufacturers find new ways to leverage their workers’ talent. Just a few years ago, a modest robot installation cost about $500,000. It also required another $500,000 investment to build the safety cages to separate those robots and their human operators. Now, similar installations cost less than $50,000, plus integrated safety equipment and improved sensing capabilities eliminate the need for any additional guarding. Robots were once only for the big guys with long runs and repetitive tasks. Their newer versions are flexible and versatile — perfect for smaller manufacturers who want to remain competitive.

Connectivity will also play a huge role in changing manufacturing. The ability to see and interact with anything from anywhere can transform operations. Unfortunately, many of the early efforts in this area involve paving the cow path — using new technology to perform old tasks. This is the result of managers seeking comfort and control. The present statistics reflect this phenomenon. Manufacturing generates 95% of all data created in the world, but only uses 2%! The challenge is to use this data in new and transformative ways, not just reinforcing the present.

In this complicated and rapidly changing environment, the plight of smaller manufacturers is dire indeed. Over 98% of the country’s manufacturers fall into this category and very few of them have the resources to stay current and engage the best technology and techniques. These manufacturers need to be part of a networked community that includes experts as committed to their success as they are.

Fortunately, Wisconsin supports manufacturers and understands manufacturing’s importance to the state’s economy. Tight networks of education, government, economic development, and other aligned organizations support our manufacturers. The critical groups in that network work together well and are dedicated to creating results not just activity. The Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity is proud to be one of these partners and an integral part of the network. Our connections with colleagues across the U.S. enable us to bring the best resources back home to Wisconsin.

Still, all of us must engage. The best solutions are not found in any one office, factory, classroom, or lab. A successful future requires the best thinking and great collaboration. That means finding ways to emerge from our bubbles and engage in new ways. Take advantage of the future. Be someone who surfs the tsunami!

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About This Blog

Buckley Brinkman is executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity and writes about the manufacturing sector in Greater Madison and throughout Wisconsin. He has a breadth of experience in helping companies drive growth, world-class competitiveness, and performance excellence, and has led efforts to save dozens of operations in the U.S. by finding new ways for them to compete. A Wisconsin native, Brinkman holds a business degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

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