Embracing Changes in Manufacturing Technology. Don’t Get Left Behind!

Embracing changes in manufacturing technologyIt has been said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. But let’s get real. Over the years, there have been some huge changes in technology that have dramatically affected the way we do business, and for the better.

The manufacturing industry has been on a tremendous roller coaster since the 1970s. The various industry advancements in quality, lean and just-in-time methodologies have helped improve efficiencies in the effort to be more competitive in a world-class market. There are still successful small manufacturing operations of the “in the garage” tradition, but they tend to be highly focused and specialized.

However, once a company crests dozens of operations and dozens of employees, running a “lean” operation is imperative, whether the product manufactured is implants or planter pots. There is also increased responsibility on all team members to run lean and stay lean. Every process improvement makes room for more – more people, more operations and more information.

IQMS has been serving the manufacturing industry with business information, shop floor control and warehouse management for 23 years. In the late 1980s, simple production reporting provided a manufacturer with a world-class competitive edge. In the 1990s, technology started to catch up to our vision (planted there since the early years of Star Trek) and now continues to offer increasing capabilities.

We are currently seeing demand for more automation for all areas of manufacturing, from conveyors and scales to PLCs and palletizers, and for more of all this information through mobile devices. Operations management demands key information at a single touch. More, faster, easier and better.

The employees involved with all this information are also a more highly skilled class of employee. The demand for plant floor operators has changed from primarily unskilled labor to primarily skilled labor: operators are operating robots and computers, not just levers and handles. IQMS has had a wireless warehouse management system since the 1990s to aid in tracking inventory by locations. From the early years this module has offered amazing capabilities, originally available only on dedicated green screen devices.

Now we have a shop floor device application that can be mounted in a fork lift to guide the driver through myriad choices of orders, docking, directions and locations. Of course, the operator has to operate the device correctly to achieve the desired results. The most productive employees are those who embrace the changes and aspire to learn more.

Because we live in a country where there are important safety and labor regulations, U.S. manufacturers must compete in the world market by continually embracing new technology, new ways to improve their operations and new methodologies. The labor market is also compelled to embrace change by learning new technology, new methods of operation and the operation of new devices. Employees at all levels are expected to know how to operate a smart phone touch screen. Remember when the mouse was a novel device?

Embrace the change. Aspire for more. Technology is moving fast – get on board and don’t get left behind.

Liz Alflen, IQMS Director of Human Resources and Administration, has been involved in the manufacturing industry for more than 20 years. Prior to joining IQMS, Liz worked as a product manager with the Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) provider, PlantStar, after graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in packaging engineering.