Most of us work from a “to do” list of some sort whether a pad of paper, Post-It note or a task list on our computer. If you’re like me, it seems that most days for every task I complete, two more get added. As we try to be diligent in our jobs, we work furiously to knock off one task to get on to the next.
We pay a penalty for working this way. We become so focused on the immediacy of what’s on our plate, we fail to look ahead at potentially game changing events which are looming around the next bend.
One such game changer is technology. Like never before in our history, technology is changing our culture, our society and, yes, our businesses. The proof lies in looking at recent history, say the last two decades. In the ‘90’s we were first introduced to email as a quirky new way to communicate. The internet was an intriguing novelty we accessed through a dial-up connection. Car phones were introduced which quickly became portable cell phones – now smart phones – which again, changed forever the way we communicate.
Now let’s look ahead two decades, or even just one. The pace of technology is accelerating, and it’s going to continue to change the way we live and work.
When I was in school a computer filled a specially constructed clean room, and programming was in a language called Fortran using punch cards to give the computer its instructions. Today I watch my young grandchildren operate an iPad with ease, moving from videos to movies to games. The next generation is growing up with technology unimaginable to us in our early years. With a foundation of comfort in navigating their devices, these young people will grow up pushing the limits of technology to levels we can’t now comprehend.
“Generation Y”, or “Millennials”, are entering the workforce and looking for jobs where they can use technology in their daily routine and assist companies with finding new ways to improve product and processes. As for my grandchildren, they are part of “Generation Z” or the “Internet Generation.” When they enter the workforce, they will be looking to the internet for innovation and new ideas and will be fully entrenched in virtual and cloud based systems.
So what does this have to do with manufacturing? You can be certain that technology will change the way we buy, sell, schedule, track, produce and ship every product made. Integrated systems will automate processes, driving productivity to new heights. Operators sitting in their offices – or their homes – will instruct robots to do the physical work. “Smart Manufacturing” is emerging now and will be a game changer in the coming decade. This change is rapidly approaching and we will all be well advised to embrace the technology and figure out how to use it to our competitive advantage. The train is leaving the station; we need to get onboard or be left behind.