Technology is evolving at an astonishing pace, changing the way we live and the way we do business. Of course, it’s not just Silicon Valley tech companies that need to keep up with these advancements. Today, businesses big and small, across all industries, need to prioritize technology in order to effectively compete, keep operations running efficiently, and deliver greater value to customers. Manufacturers that allow themselves to fall behind simply enable others to step up and steal their customers, and potentially their entire business.
Five Ways Technology Helps Manufacturers
Technology Creates Differentiation
Technology advances usually start slow as early adopters test the waters, gain momentum as others catch on, and then take off like a rocket when it becomes the norm. While many manufacturing technologies involved in the Fourth Industrial Revolution were once only affordable for industry giants, many of them have “taken off,” becoming increasingly available to small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) as their price goes down. Whereas large manufacturers are often the early adopters, they may wind up investing in technology they don’t need or that ultimately doesn’t suit their business, taking a loss; SMMs, on the other hand, which usually adopt technology later when it’s more affordable, have the ability to pick and choose what technologies make sense for them based upon the experiences of others. By investing only in the technologies that can benefit them, SMMs are able to save money and improve their value proposition to customers and potential customers, differentiating their unique product or service from the masses.
Technology Builds Customer Loyalty
The right technology improves the customer experience by helping manufacturers improve their processes and communicate with their customers. Some of this technology may be customer-facing, such as using intelligent online chatbots to quickly assist customers with common questions or concerns, or developing a better online inventory portal so customers can see what is available to them. Other technologies will be internal, yet ultimately benefitting the customer, such as using data analytics to gain deeper insight into their needs, or using additive manufacturing to produce small batches of a customized product for specific customers. By becoming more customer-centric through the use of technology, manufacturers can keep customers coming back.
Technology Streamlines Processes
Much of the technology involved in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is designed to streamline processes for manufacturers. For example, automation through artificial intelligence and advanced robotics improves productivity and accuracy, while relieving employees from routine and time-consuming tasks which allows them to focus on more important, higher-value work or new projects. Other technologies, such as blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT), have the ability to build smarter, more secure, and more transparent supply chains, and gather data from a wide variety of manufacturing endpoints to enable real-time reporting for better decision making.
Technology Aids in Recruitment
Manufacturing is often thought of as an unenviable job, but today, through technological advances, manufacturing offers some of the most exciting careers and work environments. Adopting technology, then, is very important when it comes to dispelling the notion that all manufacturing work is “dark, dirty, and dangerous.” As the baby boom generation enters retirement, adoption of technology will help recruit the next generation of manufacturing employees, who are looking for more exciting, rewarding, and innovative work environments. Technology is also responsible for networking through social media, which is a great way to connect with and recruit today's youth; in fact, YouTube has been instrumental in recruiting new talent through virtual facility tours highlighting new technologies.
Technology Expands Your Reach
Manufacturers leveraging technology can expand their reach into other markets and create new income streams. While some manufacturers may choose to keep their business within U.S. borders, manufacturers may also utilize today’s technologies to become global enterprises, finding or creating opportunities based on unmet needs and interests expressed by international consumers. Through the internet, entering new markets around the world and working with customers that were unreachable in the past now becomes much easier. Of course, there can still be hurdles to overcome, so you may want to check out our story, How ExporTech Helps Manufacturers Boost SalesBy Entering the Global Market.
You’ve heard the adage work smarter, not harder, and technology gives you the tools to do exactly that. While it’s not always easy to keep up with technology, and finances can sometimes hold SMMs back, it’s importance to survival cannot be understated. From BetaMax to Blackberry, Blockbuster to Borders, many once-mighty products and companies have fallen for failing to keep up with evolving technology. Make sure you’re not the next casualty of changing times by joining the Fourth Industrial Revolution and bringing technology to your factory floors.