It’s a great time to be in manufacturing and Huntsville is quickly
becoming the pre-eminent manufacturing hub of the South.
Advancements in technology promise to deliver solid returns on
investment while realizing cost savings over the long haul.
As technology continues its rapid growth and development trajectory,
the shop floors are becoming “smart factories” to meet demands for high
quality, low cost, and speed.
Modern-day production facilities bear little resemblance to the
factories of our parents or grandparents.
For a manufacturing plant embracing new technology, the highest costs
are faced on the front end: acquisition, transition, training, and
implementing. This is usually the sticking point when it comes to adopting new
technology, especially when companies have been working with Lean and Six Sigma
methodologies, with some measure of success.
“Innovation matters and it has a big impact,” said James Crean, CEO of
Austin, Texas-based Crean Innovation. “Hoping that it doesn’t happen is not a
Speaking at the recent Technology Interchange Symposium hosted by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the National Defense Industrial Association Manufacturing Division, Crean said several former industry giants, such as Sears’ and Kodak’s “failure to capitalize on the online revolution, combined with the inability to innovate processes and service offerings caused them to fail.”
Some, like the United States Postal Service, he said, “literally need
an act of Congress to innovate.”
Crean discussed the business life cycle and need for innovation and
“Company mortality is accelerating the growth-peak-decline cycle; the
average business lifecycle is now 7 to 10 years,” said Crean. “This negatively
impacts the supply chain, such as acquiring parts, for example. If a business
doesn’t make innovation a part of their business plan, they risk extinction.
“Are they even going to be in business in five years?
“Continuous improvement must continuously evolve,” said Crean. “Digital
transformation cannot be ignored; companies and their suppliers must not fall behind.
Lean programs are no longer sufficient. Six Sigma can only take us so far. In
fact, we’re getting left behind.”
And it’s not just companies, it’s countries, as well.
“Back in the ‘70s, Japan started eating our lunch in the auto and
electronics industries,” said Crean. “Then, the Chinese entered the electronics
market with faster and cheaper products. Japan failed to adopt driver assist,
now the Chinese are the industry leaders.”
He said, “Product is good, but process is just as important. Smart factory
goes beyond the factory floor. You can’t focus on the factory floor alone.
Digital transformation cannot be ignored; companies and their suppliers must
not fall behind. America must lead the Smart Factory transformation. We have to
disrupt ourselves. If we don’t do it, China or another country will.
“As a national security imperative, it is critical that the U.S. lead
the global industrial base. The countries with a smart factory base will
dominate the defense markets.”
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