As manufacturing consultants, we hear a lot about Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digitization, the "factory of the future." Internet-enabled technology is being harnessed throughout manufacturing to increase productivity through a variety of mechanisms including data analysis, and interlinking systems. But are small manufacturers being left out?
Technological transformation is accelerating in large companies, and sometimes it seems that the 90 percent of manufacturers in the U.S. who are small or medium are being left behind. Earlier transformations, like Lean integration or ISO 9000 for example, seemed to encourage big manufacturers to work with small suppliers to raise quality standards, but the pace of the current changes seems to leave the smaller companies out.
I say "seems to" because here in the North Country we see simple tech solutions playing an integral role in more and more companies. We see job specs and instructions displayed automatically on ipads, and better managed data coming from new equipment. Not all of the tech changes need to involve complete floor overhauls. But in order to stay competitive, companies need to ensure that their approach to both problem solving and long range planning does include the question, "Is there a technological solution that will help us meet our goals?”
For a deeper discussion on Industry 4.0 for the Small Shop, see this Assembly article.