By Jim Carroll, Futurist, Trends and Innovation Expert
One of the most important questions for any manufacturing company to ask itself is this: “When should we get involved in new trends and technologies?”
As someone who has worked with dozens of Fortune 1000 organizations around the world—helping them to get aligned with the latest and greatest industry trends—I would suggest that the time is now.
One of the biggest trends in the automotive sector, for example, is additive manufacturing. This process allows companies to combine software with 3D printing technology and significantly improve the time it takes to get new products to market. At least, that’s the goal—and even though it isn’t quite fully there yet for that purpose it is having a real impact in terms of opportunities for rapid prototyping, iterative design, and fundamentally changing how ideas are brought to market.
The fact is, additive manufacturing lowers the barrier to entry for many industries. Another example is the Internet of Things (IoT). I recently learned about a Kickstarter campaign that is raising money to create Internet-connected sprinkler heads, with built-in humidity sensors that can be controlled from a single, remote terminal. This is an example of the proverbial ‘two-guys-in-a-garage’ initiative that you sometimes hear about and the opportunity is fueled by recent innovations in affordable 3D printing technology.
So, the question is no longer: “When should we get involved in new trends and technologies?” Instead, it becomes “Are you ready for the new world of manufacturing?”
To get ready, I advise companies to “think big, start small, and scale fast.” For any potentially disruptive technology, don’t ignore it during the early days. Instead, make sure that you are learning, experimenting, and gaining expertise in promising new technologies. To me, it is better to “Fail early and fail fast.” Otherwise, you might not be ready when it becomes real.
One thing I’ve learned is that some organizations don’t take this step. They don’t show up to the starting line. They are too dismissive of new ideas and new technologies. The result is that they don’t even appear in the race, and miss out on building up the early expertise and experience with a key technology.
One of the ways to avoid this pitfall is for companies to send representatives to leading industry events like the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show (CMTS), taking place September 25–28 at The International Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.
There are a tremendous number of trends that will affect the manufacturing sector happening right now: bio-mimicry, 3D printing, robotics, rapid prototyping, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT), just to name a few.
The reality of manufacturing today is that big opportunities come from aligning to fast-paced trends. CMTS presents a great opportunity to gain insights, put these trends into perspective, and embrace the opportunity that accompanies innovation.