Manufacturing is critical for the health of the U.S. economy. The extent to which this seemingly straightforward statement is true can sometimes get lost among the various reports used to gauge the health of the nation's finances. Fortune magazine put it pretty clearly by citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis that indicated every $1 injected into manufacturing spurs another $1.35 in economic activity. That's more than any other industry, reflecting just how much influence manufacturers have.
The Revitalizing American Manufacturing and Innovation Act represents one effort made to strengthen the U.S. manufacturing sector, but will need bi-partisan support in Congress to pass. At the heart of the RAMI Act is the need to encourage greater innovation. Investing in technology and infrastructure is necessary for creating a more robust supply chain and a main priority for many manufacturers. Automated data collection represents one of the most fundamental shifts in perspectives that manufacturers need to consider if they want to improve multiple facets of operations. The RAMI Act fits into this approach to manufacturing by spurring innovation.
What Is Expected of the RAMI Act?
The centerpiece of the legislation is the foundation of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. According to an IPC News Release posted on Manufacturing.net, the network would be comprised of numerous manufacturing institutes where public and private organizations collaborate to improve manufacturing technology. Defense manufacturer Lockheed Martin has already signed on as a charter member of the currently existing four Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation.
If the RAMI Act passes through the Senate, there would likely be an additional 15 facilities built throughout the U.S. Forbes explained the existing locations in Ohio, Illinois and Michigan are investing in research to investigate new techniques in manufacturing, including:
- 3-D printing
- Next-generation power electronics
- Digital manufacturing
- Lightweight metals development
"Changing the way we do business doesn't just happen; it requires forethought, investment and commitment by both our political and industry leaders," explained Barb Ewing, chief operating officer of the Youngstown Business Incubator.
One of the big sources of motivation to improve manufacturing processes and spur innovation is the fact that manufacturing activity and employment have been growing recently. With more business, manufacturers need to have the right systems in place to meet demand.
How to Save 85,000 Man Hours Annually
It takes innovation to improve workflows. Gander Mountain Company operates the nation's largest retail network of stores for hunting, fishing, camping and marine products and accessories. The company had expanded too quickly for its IT system to keep up. Its inventory tracking system couldn't efficiently handle the expanding product selection offered by each store. Store managers had to manually download from three to six different batches of product lines, which took 20 to 30 minutes per batch. Frequently, the system would run out of room near the end of the batch download causing the whole download to crash and all data to be lost.
Brian Sword, Gander Mountain's IT Installation and Support Manager, chose RFgen Software's mobile data collection software suite to address these problems. After viewing a demonstration of how effective the solution was, store managers were quick to request the technology in their stores.
They had good reason. With mobile data collection, the company gained access to real-time data, instead of having to wait eight hours for data to be compiled. One of the biggest improvements was in productivity.
"We've cut out two hours of labor per person by using RFgen's real-time automated data collection system," said Sword.
Across 116 stores, that's a productivity gain of 232 man hours per day that adds up to approximately 85,000 man hours per year. RFgen's mobile data collection software is far more reliable than any of the old technology that Gander Mountain had in place. The company is also able to get insight into their operations. Is the store out of stock? Are there products in the back room that haven't been brought out yet? Is there a problem with the distribution center?
Clearly, innovation is necessary to not only keep the manufacturing sector strong as a whole, but also give individual organizations a boost in productivity. Without investment in technology and updates to existing systems, manufacturers risk losing ground to competition and suffering setbacks in production.