There's plenty of coverage and chatter on IoT trends, being replaced by robots, and legacy equipment vs. digital manufacturing in our industry. That's a good thing because technology becomes more integrated with every aspect of our lives each day.
How Can Manufacturers Keep Up With Technology?
But taking a step back from industry trends and looking at the actual employees — workers who run machines, answer phones, design parts, etc. — many have big concerns. A common concern in the manufacturing industry is, "The world is changing so quickly. I'm afraid I might someday find myself out of the loop."
This is a legitimate thought in this day and age, and it's more common than you might think. I have great news for you, though, because if your only concern is staying current, then it's only a matter of finding the best resources to learn from. And because everyone learns and consumes information differently, here are some of the best ways to start learning and keeping up with technology:
Embrace Web Content
The Internet is great. Have you ever heard that before? Well, it is. You can get a constant feed of information as it's released. This can be done through blogs, podcasts, forums, resources from trusted businesses, or a simple query on a search engine.
Don't have the time to be constantly searching for content? Consider setting up an RSS feed that will funnel content to you a couple of times a day from your resources of choice. When you subscribe to a website's RSS feed, you will receive headlines or a summary of that webpage's updates.
Maybe you're interested in trends around a couple of topics? Set up a Google Alert on those topics (i.e., 3D printing) and let the latest news from multiple sources email you whenever that topic is reported on or check out top manufacturing newsletters to subscribe to. The idea is to find sources that curate the latest news and trends for you in one place, like the newest sourcing trends, manufacturing and innovation, and supply chain tips — all from a reliable industry source you can trust.
Thomas publishes a quarterly report of what products and services are being sourced the most on Thomasnet.com — get a copy of that data here.
Follow Industry Social Media Accounts
"Isn't social media part of web content?" Yes, but I think we can also agree that social media has come into an entity of its own.
LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are great open platforms for you to interact with industry experts across the world. From large corporations you admire to companies outside your industry that inspire you to entrepreneurs who started from the bottom — the idea is to follow accounts of people and companies who are pushing the boundaries every day and who are outside of your typical news realm. Connecting with individual employees in other companies can be a great way to get up to date information while learning about their company culture too. Social media lets you see what's trending at the exact moment in geographic areas and technology industries that mean the most to you.
Specifically For Manufacturers: See The Top Social Media Accounts And Hashtags You Should Follow Right Now
Diversify The Content You Engage With
Some people digest information better in print than on the screen, and that's okay. There is a slew of publications for you to flip through — from Inside Supply Management to Inbound Logistics, general to niche. Of course, they are not the same as breaking news online, but they are often more conducive to learning and retaining that valuable information that you are looking for. It doesn't matter if you get your news through a book, magazine, newspaper, white paper, or an academic report. Diversifying the content you read will help you learn more and give you ideas for your own company others may not be implementing yet.
More than half the engineers and technical professionals surveyed for the 2020 Smart Marketing for Engineers report indicated that they spend at least one hour per week watching videos for work, while those 45 and younger reported spending the most time watching videos — which makes sense, since 95% of a message is retained when it's communicated through a video vs reading it with text.
Watch Now: 17 Videos Featuring Industrial Companies
Make Time For Online Training
"But I'm more of a hands-on person. I learn more in a classroom environment, under a structure and deadlines." Lucky for you, there are plenty of ways to do that.
See if there are technology classes or crash courses at your local college. Webinars, online tutorials, and online classes are all available at the push of a button, and often for free. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Coursera and EdX offer classes from accredited universities that can be taken at your leisure. And if your company is looking for some in-house training, many businesses are willing to do onsite training, bringing the classroom to you.
Also Related: 10 Podcasts To Keep Your Tech And Industry Skills Sharp
Attend Virtual Events And Webinars
Sometimes the best way to get information is by being at the announcement itself. Many networking events announce what they are planning on highlighting and what you should look forward to in the coming years. They allow you to connect with others in your profession and get some insight on the trends to come. Smaller gatherings like a meet-up offer the same benefits as the large conferences in a more intimate setting. Network with people inside and outside your industry. Learning how others work with new technology can be beneficial for you and may give you insight into a new product, service, or business you can implement in your own company.
Thomas hosts regular small industry events and webinars for manufacturers where the latest buyer trends and technology news are discussed. See the latest schedule here.
Related: Stay on top of the latest industrial activity through the new Thomas Manufacturing Index
Collaborate With Your Teams
Ballistix, a global leader in sales process improvement, says technology should be a tool run by people, not the other way around. Today, the most successful companies are those that are comprised of teams who take advantage of technology like data analytics, business process improvements, and automation. Check out their tips for seizing the sales opportunities offered by technology here.
Whichever path is the right one for you, I can't stress one point enough. Information is great to learn, but even better to use. Teams should work together on the overall strategy of the business. Don't just have one team update something new without thoroughly communicating your initiatives to your entire business. Encourage them to adjust and adapt to your business and communicate how important it is to stay up to date on technology trends, too. Make sure you make time to review your learnings before you implement your newfound knowledge. Collaborating with other departments in your business will also give you insight into things you may be overlooking. And another set of eyes may help with a solution. After all, knowledge is power.
Partner With An Advisor
For some companies, keeping up with the latest technologies can be difficult when there are other day-to-day tasks to manage. According to recent Thomas Industry Update Podcast guest Jason Ray, CEO and co-founder of Paperless Parts, job shops are particularly reluctant to update a system that "already works."
Ray's best advice for manufacturers and job shops regarding adoption of Industry 4.0 technology is to take a proactive – not reactive – approach. Stay ahead of the growth curve and don't wait until the technology is a "must-have."
Thomas has been connecting buyers and suppliers for more than 122 years. Contact us to learn how we can help your manufacturing grow and digitize to stay ahead of competitors.
Did you find this useful?