Incorporating the present and future of technology in the manufacturing space for SMB businesses can be a challenge. From a lack of expertise due to smaller workforce sizes to the sheer cost of integrating, acquiring new technology can create a headache for business leaders.
While artificial intelligence is currently the rage in discussions about the future of the workforce, the integration of AI in manufacturing companies in the near future is likely still limited at best. While AI is being built into sales and management platforms currently, its use in actual manufacturing production has not yet reached maturity. I have found three areas of technology manufacturing that leaders should consider integrating soon.
1. An immediate application of AI for SMB manufacturers is its integration into supply chain management. Integrating AI into an organization’s digital supply network (DSN) to manage the supply chain can assist manufacturers in making more informed purchasing decisions, decreasing lead time and minimizing non-essential materials.
In a recent Deloitte Insights article, Synchronizing the Digital Supply Network, the authors explain the benefits of integrating AI into supply chain management as, “planning itself begins to shift from a static to a dynamic approach, finding opportunities to minimize cost for inputs while still maximizing the ability to meet demands. Utilizing real-time demand, cost, and capacity information, organizations can optimize their supply plans, transportation, and inventory.”
2. The second technology is the integration of the Internet of Things (IoT). The use of the IoT in manufacturing is growing exponentially while the integration of technologies has decreased significantly. The IoT allows manufacturers to become more efficient, knowledgeable about process, improve equipment maintenance and much more. By integrating IoT technologies, manufacturers can track assets and materials within their facilities. This data is critical for use with AI systems in the management of the supply chain.
The IoT can also be used to optimize the maintenance of equipment. For example, businesses can utilize the monitoring of temperatures, vibration and rotation of machinery and much more to assist in identifying the need for maintenance or equipment replacement before a failure happens. This proactive monitoring approach can not only save money in having to replace failed equipment (which could have potentially been repaired or maintained before failure), it can also lead to decreased downtime of manufacturing lines by providing insights to proactively order replacement equipment or move maintenance schedules to times when equipment will be inactive.
3. The third area of technology for SMB manufacturers to vigorously consider is cybersecurity. Every business now has digital data critical to the efficient functioning of their business. Hackers and people with malicious intent are actively looking to steal any data of value, from product design data to invoicing, financial and customer information. Not only is there a business risk to the loss of such data, there is also a reputational risk as well. The loss of private data to a hacker and the need to disclose this to customers can cause untold levels of damage even if no one ultimately acts on or uses the stolen data.
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