Dismissing IIoT Will be Costly for Small Manufacturers
77% of manufacturers and distributors surveyed in a 2017 manufacturing report, many of whom are small to midsize companies, have no plans to implement IIoT technologies.1 Remember - IIoT is the Industrial Internet of Things, meaning equipment and processes with technological components that are connected to your network. Many of the respondents said that technology is not required in their operations or they just didn't feel like they had the time or resources to make significant changes to their processes to incorporate IIoT.
Dismissing technological advances in automation, especially as a smaller manufacturer that is looking to grow, would be a misstep on management's part. The companies surveyed reported several top areas of focus and concern for manufacturers such as workforce skillset challenges, customer service capabilities, and supply chain management. These are areas the IIoT can address - clear and impactful technological solutions. While the IIoT is not a perfect fit for every company, it is important for the executive leadership of these smaller manufacturing companies to seriously consider and assess the potential benefits of introducing IIoT technologies into their operations.
Avoid recruiting from an unskilled workforce
As manufacturing enters into an increasingly technological world, it has become more difficult to hire talented workers with the correct certifications, experience, and training. The Industrial Internet of Things is not a magic pill that can address every labor-related issue, but it can provide benefits while assisting recruiting top workers.
IIoT allows manufacturers to cut back on manual tasks, which allow more utilization of existing resources. With connected-to-the-network-equipment that reports on its own health and productivity, manufacturers can allocate team members to higher value and higher skilled work. As manual-related and repetitive tasks decrease, employees can spend more time gaining the technical skills required to become higher-level machine operators and programmers.
Additionally, manufacturers that advertise their interest and focus on technologically-forward equipment, systems, and processes, will be able to attract that higher-level talent needed to keep up with the advancements and sift through the large amounts of data generated. It's a candidate's market right now and great, affordable, talent is hard to come by these days but you will be more competitive in the market if you can highlight your committment to technology.
Streamline your supply chain
"Moving to the cloud" is an expression I'm sure you've heard before. We are talking about cloud-based ERP systems, Office 365, and other off-premise server options to store and manage your data, communications, and collaboration. This is a real solution for manufacturing companies who want more efficient ways to communicate and collaborate with vendors and customers, whether it be during the production, purchasing, or any other stage in the supply chain. The IIoT allows manufacturers to monitor the performance and health of their products in the field accurately and in real time. The IIoT can take on quality assurance and product compliance tasks that might have required extra site visits and superfluous customer meetings. It also enables manufacturers to proactively address upcoming risks and problems and prevent costly shutdowns. For products with long service lives, this is particularly beneficial.
Additionally, the IIoT can foster better relationships with customers in a really big way. Imagine if you could automate the process of providing reports and status updates to customers before they can even ask for them. Manufacturing leaders understand that customers expect a high level of service and responsiveness, especially as more and more organizations utilize technology to meet their needs. Manufacturers that can’t rise to this level of service are at risk of losing market share and revenue to more technologically savvy competitors.
The Industrial Internet of Things also allows manufacturing companies to reduce manual processes involving procurements and vendors. Highly manual tasks like replacing inventory and supplies such as washers, nuts, bolts, etc. can be automated by sending communications to vendors when inventory runs low that then prompts automatic replenishment.
Is the IIoT right for your business?
Can implementing IIoT be a daunting and potentially expensive project for small and midsized manufacturers? Yes. But it really does depend on the type of equipment and technology you are trying to implement, and it depends on how complicated your current environment is. But you really do have to take into consideration the amount of time, money, labor, and resources you could save by integrating at least one manual process with technology.
Once you understand where everything is, and you protect it accordingly, start to consolidate. Work with IT specialists to see what bloated expenses you can cut, and how you can make your IT run more effeciently. If you have mobile staff members, the cloud with additional security features might be a good option for improving productivity.
Bottom line is that manufacturing and technology are becoming more entwined and if you don't take this opportunity to leverage that marriage, your competitor will. Enlisting the help of a managed services provider is the best way to do this. Technology is a very difficult DIY task to tackle and procuring specialists to help you is the best way to go.
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1. Sikich LLP's 2017 Manufacturing Report
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