How Local Manufacturers Can Lead the Future
New technology, changes in the labor market, and new trends often reach large manufacturing corporations first, however, big businesses also encounter big challenges when making changes. Implementation often requires full participation from every employee, sector, and region. With foresight and planning, smaller local manufacturers can act with more agility and implement new technology and use trends to their advantage on a smaller scale, faster.
The Gig Economy
Also known as the freelance economy, access economy, or freedom economy, the gig economy refers to the recent shift in the labor market from full-time work to freelancing. Working on an hourly or project-by-project basis, freelancers can work as they want on the projects they choose, while businesses can have professional work done as needed without the expenses of an extra employee or a dedicated agency. Manufacturers can take advantage of professional web development, custom software development, graphic design, videography, writing and editing, bookkeeping, and much more without distracting from the job at hand. Hundreds of websites are dedicated to freelance marketplaces including Elance, oDesk, Fiverr, Gun.io, Authentic Jobs and Folyo. Meetup groups, chambers of commerce, and business networking groups are a great place to start to meet local freelancers in person.
Robotics and Automation
While a fully automated robotic facility is generally not feasible, robotics can be a key to overcoming obstacles and expanding production. Investments in robotics can solve persistent talent gap problems; adding an automated welder will make it easy to meet production spikes without seeking temp workers. New machines can also expand the shop’s skills; a 3D printer can build small, intricate objects that might’ve otherwise been outsourced or taken too much time. They can also make the shop safer; adding a self-driving bot to move parts along a well-defined line can prevent crashes, drops, and other dangerous mishaps. Adding just one automated machine to the production line can solve problems and make roadmap for future implementation.
Internet of Things
A complete network of interconnected machines that communicate with each other seamlessly is the manufacturing IoT ideal, but not a requirement. Even when PLCs cannot currently communicate, smart sensors which connect to a local or cloud-based network can communicate and transmit vital information to make the system faster and more efficient. Alternatively, current sensors and systems can be used, but they can be retrofitted with PLCs or HMIs that are programmed to communicate across the plant. Targeting one group of machines or a specific data category will help to guide small-scale implementation and give measurable ROI metrics.
Now more than ever, new developments are driving substantial, disruptive changes in manufacturing and other industries. While big businesses become easily entrenched in a traditional method, new businesses are using game-changers to compete, minimizing expenses, maximizing output, and working smarter while working harder.