As technology advances, all industries must adopt relevant offerings to remain competitive and efficient. The manufacturing industry is no different. Modern technology creates new opportunities for manufacturers to release more innovative offerings and work faster and more accurately.
Automation, robotics, 3D printing, wearable technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the internet of things are just a few of the technologies that have the potential to change the manufacturing industry entirely.
However, changing long-standing operations is no easy feat for manufacturers. Manufacturers must find ways to adopt technology while still streamlining their operations effectively.
Here are some of the top strategies for adopting manufacturing technology:
- Focus your efforts
- Automate one process at a time
- Collect and use data efficiently
- Don't be afraid to experiment
- Provide training and materials
- Monitor deployment and adjust accordingly
A Review of Transformative Manufacturing Technology
Before getting into the methods for manufacturing technology adoption, it is essential to review the significant technology themes emerging in manufacturing:
- Robotics: Automated vehicles and sorting arms.
- Software as a service (SaaS): Predictive maintenance and vision software.
- Digitization or data software: Data analytics solutions and marketplaces.
- Augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR): Wearable headsets or vision picking software.
- Material science: Innovative materials and additive manufacturing.
- Batteries: Ultrasound transmitters and contactless charging systems.
Focus Your Efforts
When determining where to start with technology, assess your areas of greatest need. Perform an analysis of your current systems, reviewing all of your current technology systems before considering adding something new. Complete a thorough assessment, noting where your processes need improvement and the current systems you're using. Chances are, there's an excellent opportunity to update processes that have been around for a while. However, before adding any new technology, you'll want to know how it will impact your plant overall.
By reviewing your systems, you can determine a few critical pieces of information. For one, you'll be able to find out where your weaknesses are and where you need the most urgent improvement. Additionally, you will be able to determine if your current systems can support the new technology. You'll be able to focus your efforts on what's most manageable and most realistic to adopt in the present moment. By taking these aspects under consideration before adopting new technologies, you can reduce build times, control the budget, and prevent system redundancies.
Automate One Process at a Time
When adding new technology to your manufacturing company, you should automate one process at a time. When used in combination, many new manufacturing technologies can automate and streamline your operations from top to bottom. There are several key technological solutions available for manufacturers, but you should make incremental changes to technological adoption. Trying to upgrade all of your processes at once will likely be overwhelming, and it could lead to severe problems. Instead of jumping into every form of manufacturing technology available, start with one thing at a time.
For example, you may not want to start using advanced robotics and wearable technology simultaneously, as the learning curve will be too steep for employees. Instead, consider just starting with wearables like smartwatches that detect fatigue and enhance worker safety. Once that process is automated and reliable, then you can consider which manufacturing technology to add next.
Collect and Use Data Efficiently
One of the most significant benefits of manufacturing technology is that it gathers big data in real-time. The data you collect from technology can help you streamline your operations, deliver better products, and make better business decisions. When implementing new technology for your manufacturing company, it's important to remember the value of data. Technology can undoubtedly automate and simplify your processes, but it also offers a goldmine of data.
It's vital to have a system in place for collecting and monitoring the big data you collect through technology. Categorize data to ensure it's useful and easy to interpret. Once you have the data, don't let it go to waste. Listen to the data for predictive maintenance and other critical business decisions.
Don't Be Afraid to Experiment
Of course, you want to be mindful and logical with implementing new manufacturing industry technology. However, your entire team needs to be willing to embrace experimentation. Instead of jumping into major technology changes, consider testing on a subset of your manufacturing plant if possible.
Employees and leadership must be willing to embrace a culture of experimentation. To help foster this, you can recognize team members who share new ideas or alter the processes. Experimentation will ensure that you leverage the manufacturing technologies effectively and to their full potential. It's essential to embrace all team members' voices, as they may see unique solutions and opportunities based on their role.
Provide Training and Materials
New manufacturing technologies are beneficial, but they also have a learning curve. Workers will have to adjust to processes that include new technologies, and it's essential to keep this in mind when adopting technologies for your manufacturing processes. Before adding or changing your technology, make sure to provide training to employees. You should explain the value and role of technology and how it will change the processes and the employee's responsibility.
Based on your training sessions, you should create a curriculum. Many vendors will offer standardized training, which is a good start. If you receive vendor training, make sure to ask questions and leverage their expertise. Record training sessions to create video and audio presentations and training documents. Offering multiple training methods will help ensure that each employee can learn how they find most useful. This way, you'll be able to get any new employees on board quickly and effectively.
Monitor Deployment and Adjust Accordingly
As you adopt new technologies for your manufacturing processes, remember that it can disrupt the workflow. It's crucial that you closely monitor deployment to create the most effective implementation schedule. You may find that you need to revise deployment into smaller stages than you initially thought, but this may help streamline operations at your plant. Allow stakeholders and employees to offer feedback and express concerns so that you can create the most effective deployment plan.
Even once you've begun implementing new technologies, do not assume everything will flow perfectly in your manufacturing processes. Instead, assess and evaluate your deployment regularly with your operations goals in mind. Technology should help, not hinder your manufacturing plant, so it's essential to make sure that the technology you implement is benefitting your company.
Successfully Adopt New Manufacturing Technologies
Technology innovates rapidly, and manufacturers must embrace it to stay on track and remain competitive in the modern landscape. There are already several vital technologies available for the manufacturing industry, and top manufacturers are already finding ways to implement them and streamline their manufacturing processes. For additional resources to help streamline and integrate manufacturing technology, contact BLM Technologies. Our industry-leading experts have over four decades of experience offering cost-effective tech solutions for several industries, including manufacturing.