Crucial need to adapt
Don’t miss out on the benefits of new technology
Companies need to embrace technological change in all industries (pic: Houghton International)
It’s no secret that technology is fast-paced and today, we can’t escape it. However, as increasingly innovative and intelligent solutions are released, there’s often a split reaction between the digital innovators who want to be the first to implement them and those who hold back, preferring more traditional methods.
Houghton International, an electric motor repairs and rewinds company, discusses how businesses often face challenges when it comes to deriving the benefits of new technology.
The electricity milestone
We wouldn’t have any of the technology we now have today without one major technological milestone — electricity.
In 1881, inventor Thomas Edison built stations capable of generating electricity in Manhattan and London. 12 months later and electricity was available as a commodity, changing industry forever.
Steam power was prevalent in many factories around this time and to use this power, large, cumbersome and often dangerous machinery had to be used. Once electricity was made available, this could all change — but it didn’t.
Electricity was available yet, in 1900, less than 5% of factories used electric motors. Many preferred to rely on steam power as they were uncomfortable with the level of change brought about by the introduction of electric motors. It would trigger a change in thinking that many simply didn’t want to consider.
For many, the scale of disruption that would be caused outweighed the performance efficiencies that could be gained through using electric motors. Production could take place following logic, rather than the direction of the driveshaft. Factories became safer and cleaner too, while the staff themselves began to set the pace.
But the switch wasn’t simple; the whole of the factory’s infrastructure needed to change. And with time, it did — as change always does. By the 1920s, manufacturing productivity had increased significantly, as factory owners increasingly implemented electric motors.
It took nearly forty years from the initial electrical milestone to the boosted manufacturing rates of the 1920s, highlighting how instant results do not go hand in hand with new technology. Rather, we can only reap the benefits when we fully understand how best to use it.
The issue today
Almost 100 years later and society is facing a similar challenge. Take electric motors themselves for example. While they have been fully adopted into many applications, business owners are still facing decisions on whether to upgrade their model to one that promises further efficiencies.
Industry 4.0 is working to further widen the disparity between the traditional- and technological-focused. Dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 is transforming industries through automation and real-time data. One example of this is condition monitoring, the process of using technology to monitor the state of machinery to detect significant change and therefore problems.
Condition monitoring, part of predictive maintenance, involves techniques like vibration and lubricant analysis as well as acoustic emissions. For those who have enabled Industry 4.0 already, they are already at an advantage, as they are able to anticipate when maintenance work will be required, in turn reducing the impact unplanned downtime can have. Those who are unaware of the potential of Industry 4.0 are unable to access this level of insight, putting them at an automatic disadvantage.
Considerations for businesses today
Before you invest in new technology, establish how it will benefit your operations, as well as where it will be implemented within your organisations. Consider the amount of work that is required for implementation and whether this and the associated costs are justified by what you’ll gain. If in doubt, enlist the help of a professional to advise you on the right solution.
How well you adopt to emerging technologies will be crucial to your business’ future success. Shying away from digital advancements is no longer an option; choose to be an innovator or delay the implementation of these new developments. Either way, change is happening now — and you can’t afford to stand still.
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