In a world full of exciting software companies, we often forget about manufacturing. But in many ways, manufacturing is the high-tech sector, par excellence. It’s what keeps prices low and drives our high standard of living. But it’s also an industry plagued by technical issues. These are issues that threaten to derail productivity growth and slow progress. Here are some of the biggest technical problems facing manufacturers today, and what they can do about it.
Too Much, Or Too Little, Inventory
Inventory discrepancies are the bane of any manufacturer. Having too much or too little stock at your plant always spells trouble. If you’ve got too much inventory, you run the risk of having to slash prices and make a loss. If you’ve got too little, you can’t meet client orders, and you risk customers taking their business elsewhere. No matter which way you cut it, it’s bad for your bottom line.
So what can be done? One solution is for manufacturers to get better when it comes to business intelligence. Business intelligence is something that is used by high-tech service companies already. They use it, among other things, to predict demand. Manufacturers who don’t have any system in place to predict demand will constantly be guessing at what customers want. And that means they risk building up unsustainable inventories that eat into their profitability.
Transporting Materials Without Breakage
Consumers demand high-quality products every time. And that means that products, especially food products, shouldn’t arrive in pieces. One of the biggest problems manufacturers have right now is product breakage before packaging. Things like nuts, chips, and even plastics, can be fragile. High breakage rates are leading many consumers to try alternatives, and that’s a problem.
Recently, however, companies have been innovating in the way in which they transport inputs around the factory floor. New tube conveyor systems are designed to be gentler and more hygienic than older systems. And that means that delicate items can now be processed en masse, except without the breakage.
Big Data Management
Big data is set to become worth over $200 billion by 2022, according to the boffins at Goldman Sachs. But right now, manufacturers aren’t using this incredible new tool to their advantage. According to industry experts, only about 29 percent of companies are using big data. And the percentage figure for manufacturers is lower.
What is so strange is that manufacturing can benefit from big data more than any other sector. There is no other sector of the economy that is so reliant on real-time analytics. Manufacturers rely on data about everything. From temperature in their ovens to the time the lorry will arrive to pick up the next shipment, data helps.
With tools like Hadoop and NoSQL, it’s never been easier to manage big data. And with efforts to connect manufacturing to the IoT, this looks set to go into overdrive. Factories that are linked to the internet of things are more productive and more innovative than those that aren’t. But right now, only about 10 percent are actually taking advantage of this new technology.