The Risks for Small and Mid-Sized Manufacturers Hidden in Technology Trends

The Risks for Small and Mid-Sized Manufacturers Hidden in Technology Trends

From 5G wireless to artificial intelligence, technology is advancing at the usual breakneck pace and manufacturing industry experts spend a lot of time trying to parse how these developments will play out for manufacturers. Unfortunately, so much of the analysis is focused on the global impact that new technology could create up and down the supply chain with the largest manufacturers at the center.

The focus on large manufacturers often leaves small and mid-sized (SMBs) manufacturers to guess at what aspects of the trends they should be keeping up with. While there are definitely opportunities in the new technology for SMB manufacturers, understanding the risks hidden in the trends is critical for maintaining a healthy business in the competitive world of manufacturing. The most critical trend risks for SMBs are falling behind in data management and not developing its workforce.

Data, Data, Everywhere Data

The trend towards a reliance on data to run all types of businesses provides a huge opportunity for business that can harness the data to improve and automate processes, find new competitive advantages, and create new connections with customers. However, the world of big data has also created new risks for manufacturers, including system stability, data integrity and cybercrime.

While organizations like NIST provide information to manufacturers to help assess their cyber risk, hacking is just one of the risk factors introduced into an operation when ERPs and other connected systems are implemented. Manufacturers of all sizes should have both internal personnel who are responsible for system monitoring and maintenance and external partners that can help provide an additional level of expertise and oversight to ensure the operation is getting the full benefit of its data, while properly managing risks.

Finding and Keeping Skilled Workers

Whether you consider the trends of additive manufacturing, more human/robotics partnerships in the manufacturing process, or the data-driven nature of Industry 4.0, the new skill sets needed of manufacturing employees is creating a huge risk for businesses not investing in workforce development. For example, in automotive manufacturing the move towards electric vehicles means less of a need for machinists and more need for workers with 3D printing experience. Not preparing now for this transition could mean lagging businesses cannot get the skilled workers they need and are pushed out of the market.

Aerospace manufacturing has the same transition in its future and most manufacturers in the industry recognize this risk. If you have not done so already, you should be investing in continuous education/training of your workers, as well as looking for partnerships with schools or organizations that are preparing students for next-generation manufacturing jobs. In one such case, Connecticut-based Westminster Tool leveraged connections with area schools to create an internship for a college student to help the company evaluate 3D printing options for prototyping at the company.

Triple Helix has even gotten involved by creating their own STEM education program called the Free Range Kids Initiative, that focuses on introducing students to STEM technologies and the careers paths that these create, while introducing them to local Connecticut companies.

Connecticut manufacturers have a very motivated partner with Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU). The organization announced earlier this year the TEAM Works Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Plan to train 35,000 skilled workers. That’s in addition to the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology program that matches pre-screened candidates with manufacturers and . Manufacturers in the state should check out these programs and see how their company partner with them.

Of course, an investment in ones existing workforce always provides a good return. Best of all, there are many state and federal programs to help small and mid-sized manufacturers train employees in new manufacturing processes and technology. Finding the best one for your company depends on your specific niche and training needs. A good place to start is talking with the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Triple Helix has provided data and information systems for the aerospace and manufacturing industries for the last 15 years and has helped many operations improve their ability to organize, access, and analyze their data. Contact us if you would like to schedule a risk-free consultation to see if Triple Helix can help your company address the risks and opportunities hidden in manufacturing technology.

About The Author: Jason Bittner

CEO and founder of Triple Helix Corporation, since 2004. Has worked closely within the Aerospace / Defense / Manufacturing industries for over two (2) decades, solving technical challenges with integrating data and information technologies with best business practices. Jason seeks to educate and inform his readers with the latest news about the information management space, along with insights into how best to operate our companies now and into the future.
May 30th, 2019

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