In recent years, industry reports provided plenty of reasons for business leaders to be somewhat optimistic about U.S. manufacturing. After the recession, technology innovations, rising international labor prices and other factors encouraged American companies to reshore their operations and pick up production rates.
Industry Week reported U.S. manufacturing should continue to prosper, but not without a few setbacks. Companies need to find better technology strategies to take advantage of improved data processes and intelligent machines.
The Technology Encouraging Growth
There are a few causes for recent manufacturing renewal in the U.S. Industry Week shared the results of numerous reports attributing domestic success to Chinese labor costs and low fuel prices. A prime factor, however, is the technology used for tracking, planning and performing manufacturing is more affordable and convenient than ever.
Connected devices are some of the most popular investments modern companies make. Deloitte and the Nonprofit Council on Competitiveness researched current trends to create projections for future technology use. The report predicts the global internet of things market will grow by about $3.5 trillion between 2013 and 2019.
Other technologies on the rise include advanced robotics, which should rise by $10 billion in the same time frame. This year showed increased use of automated data collection, smart algorithms and machine learning solutions.
The benefits offered by advanced software systems and intelligent machines allow companies to manufacture products with a limited staff and increased oversight. Robots and other production tools are able to report activity through an online connection to create complete visibility and provide data for analysis. Companies can use more cost-efficient solutions to cut down on mistakes and wasted resources. When implemented correctly, the end result is fast, accurate and consistent production performance.
Innovation Brings Challenges
U.S. manufacturing has grown in recent years, but not as fast as earlier reports indicated. After a recent production drop, CNN reported a slight dip in performance is normal for an industry that's seen rapid growth. Overall yearly performance indicators might suffer from problems, but so far it's been one step back for every two steps forward.
The results of new technology doesn't always match the promise. While many U.S. manufacturing organizations show excitement for new software solutions, they struggle to understand best return on investment methods for innovations. CIO Insight said many companies don't know how to prioritize automated data collection features offered by the IoT. Smart equipment and mobile data collection devices are able to capture information but companies don't always recognize what to look for in daily reporting and analysis.
Other businesses choose to take a wait and see approach, they prefer to watch how technology operates before making investments, rather than trying to get a jump on competition.
Better Solutions for Technology Adoption
Investing in new technology can be scary. Many manufacturers can promote consistent growth, however, as long as they have infrastructure in place to monitor the effects of decisions. If a business doesn't have the data experience necessary to implement new solutions, it can work with a partner to safely improve performance.
A data collection consulting partner should offer a plan for implementation that takes a manufacturer's specific needs into account. Automated data collections systems should accommodate connected machinery, mobile devices, voice picking or any other technology the company uses on the production floor. It's important the data works together. When a company adopts new solutions, it has to make sure the product integrates with the legacy systems or existing technology.
The goal should be to create an automated data collection system that captures the performance of new investments and compares current processes to earlier methods. By working with the right partner, companies can implement a solution that demonstrates its own value.