Digital technology is everywhere. It's in telephones, music, retail shopping, health devices and banking. Companies that produce appliances, automobiles, batteries and just about every modern convenience rely on some sort of computerized software to get their goods into the hands of consumers. However, manufacturing experts and influencers at Silicon Valley's second-annual advanced industries regional workshop concluded that more must be done to foster this digital revolution.
1. Hardware Startups
Before digital technology lowered costs, starting a manufacturing company seemed unthinkable to small business owners. As of 2016, cloud-based software gives manufacturers, even ones just starting out, an edge by reducing upfront expenses. When manufacturers reduce costs from the get-go, they turn a profit more quickly and innovate faster. Larger manufacturers must rely on these smaller companies to create networked suppliers
Digital technology goes beyond just starting a company. An online space known as Dragon Innovation matches smaller companies with larger manufacturers to help the former launch and mass-produce their products. Larger companies are beginning to realize the innovation that occurs in startups, so these firms tend to reach out more often.
2. Bridging the Gap
Digital technology also helps turn hobbyist manufacturers into full-fledged companies. Larger companies frequently turn to startups as a way to monitor new developments in certain areas of manufacturing. Venture capital firms, such as Bolt, also come into play as they specifically look to fund hardware companies. The idea is to get manufacturing startups into healthier positions thanks to regional firms and business partnerships. Cloud-based software lets manufacturers connect and innovate, even when the facilities are in different states.
3. Software Plays to America's Long-Term Future
Even while manufacturing jobs continue to go overseas, computer software plays heavily into the strengths of American manufacturers. Digital technology found in 3-D printing creates personalized products on demand, while new materials and techniques continue to make 3-D printers an affordable option for startups. Small devices and sensors that connect wirelessly to machines combine with advanced robotics and data analyzing programs to produce better quality control. All of these factors combine to help companies mass-produce items more efficiently.
4. Public/Private Partnerships
It behooves the public sector of city and state governments to take the initiative to foster partnerships with private manufacturers in a public/private partnerships. One example of this partnership involves higher education and advanced training. Companies can partner with high schools, colleges and technical schools to encourage students to get training to work on advanced machines in factories. Narrowing the skills gap is one major issue faced by American manufacturers.
5. More Coders
Manufacturers acknowledge that companies need to do more to alleviate the skills gap, and hiring more programmers is one way to do that. Companies need coders to make software to run advanced machines. Businesses must do a much better job of converging people who make software and manufacturers that need those kinds of workers. Experts believe a better network of contacts can solve this problem, which means businesses should reach out to coders and programmers.
America dominates the global economy when it comes to producing software and the digital technology that goes along with it. Because software and computers advance so rapidly, manufacturers must learn to keep pace with the times. If that happens, American manufacturing might start a new industrial revolution and a manufacturing renaissance.
Photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson at Flickr.com