Wake up to a new manufacturing dawn
Wake up, everybody
No more sleepin’ in bed
No more backward thinkin’
Time for thinkin’ ahead
The world has changed so very much
From what it used to be
There is so much hatred, war an’ poverty.
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, “Wake Up, Everybody,” November 1975
I’ve been thinking a lot about this song lately. It’s a call for people to wake up, engage, and make a difference. The lyrics talk about hatred, war, and poverty — challenges that have been with us since the beginning of time. It reminds me of business issues like efficiency, cost reduction, and improving the bottom line. These challenges have also been with us since the beginning of business. Ironically, the persistence and pervasiveness of these issues can cause us all to take them for granted — to fall asleep. Are you asleep?
Uncertainty is also always with us. There are times when it fades but uncertainty takes center stage during changes in the presidency, especially when the incoming and outgoing presidents come from different parties. The current transition is no different — just louder! Are you one of those people waiting to take action until you see what happens? I hope you know and understand the consequences of waiting, especially in manufacturing operations.
Change also has always been with us. What’s different now is the speed of that change. A new book by Thomas Friedman, Thank You for Being Late, lays out this phenomenon very clearly. Friedman claims that we are linear creatures living in an era of exponential change. That change becomes more complicated because it’s happening along three interacting axes: Mother Nature (environmental change), markets (globalization), and Moore’s law (technology). If you decide to wait you are falling behind at an exponential speed, with only the capability to catch up at a linear pace. Choose wisely.
In manufacturing there is absolutely no need to wait because the current trends are crystal clear. Three fields are transforming every corner of manufacturing: additive manufacturing, robotics and automation, and connected devices.
Additive manufacturing — 3D printing — has the capability to make anyone, anywhere, a manufacturer. That includes traditional manufacturers, students in high school, and even astronauts on the space station. Have you decided how it will affect your business?
The falling price and improving capabilities of robotics bring automation within the reach of every manufacturer. Capabilities that cost upward of $500,000 a decade ago now cost less than a tenth of that today, and are easier and safer to use. Are there opportunities in your operation to address the body gap with additional automation?
Finally, the world of connected devices — the industrial internet of things — is transforming manufacturers’ ability to make sense of large amounts of data and put that data to use both locally and remotely. Manufacturing generates the vast majority of the data created every day; however, less than 5% of that data is put to use. What would it mean to your business to make use of all the available data?
Have you thought about these questions and how these three trends will affect your business? Are you waiting for clarity? Inspiration? Well, every minute you wait you are falling farther behind — exponentially!
The era of exponential change requires radical engagement. No longer can a single expert cover all the new developments in any field, or even come close. Covering three fields is impossible. Relying on a limited number of contacts won’t provide the insight and direction necessary to thrive in this new world.
Radical engagement requires finding new ideas and perspectives to provide access to the best information and possible applications for these new technologies. Activating broad networks and engaging with conflicting opinions provide the information and insights necessary for you to form your own position and approach in order to take advantage of trends in your own particular situation.
In any case, it makes no sense to wait! Take action. Engage RADICALLY, especially with smart people who hold different views. Construct a perspective and strategy around additive manufacturing, robotics, and connected devices. Be sure to move quickly and with the right partners. They will help you climb the exponential curve and it’s easier to change when you’re in motion.
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