Blog: What is the right digital technology application for me?

As a specialist industrial digitalisation adviser, I have visited many businesses who are looking for advice and support to help them adopt digital technology. They understand that technology adoption will increase their competitiveness and reduce manual processes. I feel excited when I visit a new business. Why? Because the creativity and the opportunities I see are truly amazing.

At the start of the week I could be in a textile factory, the next day a chocolatier and by the end of the week I’m sitting down with machinists. Variety is the spice of life they say but that’s not why I’m excited. All these businesses have one thing in common. They all want to make improvements to their business and want to implement new technology to do so. I haven’t come across a business yet that isn’t willing to investigate the application of a new technology that might improve their bottom line. In many cases there are more appropriate technologies than they initially considered.

But whilst technology can make incremental and even transformational improvements to a business, it’s not a silver bullet and can’t solve all your problems. Everyone is looking to sell you their new system and shiny new toy, but the big question for businesses is "is it the right application for us?".

Apply the right technology, to the right process at the right time

It occurs to me that some of the language and attitude thrown at companies today is fundamentally flawed. They are encouraged to take up new technologies but it’s essential that you apply the right technology, to the right process at the right time. But how are you supposed to know what is right for you? Especially when you have a business to run. How do you navigate the host of technologies which are available, never mind the different solutions? Technology suppliers will sell you their solution but how do you know it is right one to ensure the long-term sustainability of your business?

For a technology such as Additive Manufacturing (3D printing to some), this is also the case. It is always questionable when someone wants to manufacture something using AM, just because it’s AM. During my career I’ve heard on many occasions, "There was an app for that" now "We can just print it".

Sure, you can. Everything is possible. It might be more expensive and take longer than if you manufactured it using a different method but that doesn’t matter, it’s 3D printed, right? I work with businesses to develop their understanding of the options, help them visualise the benefits and enable them to make strategic decisions that take their business further.

A manufacturer invested in a 3D printer because it was going to cost the same as producing one metallic fixture. Now, they print a fixture in plastic and when they’ve built 10 assemblies and the fixture has worn out, they simply print another. The printer has already paid for itself many times over. This is just one example of a successful application of additive manufacture, but it demonstrates how a simple procedural change can have a significant, positive impact on your bottom-line.

I am inspired by what I have heard from North West businesses: they are not only keen to adopt digital technology, they really appreciate our support to help them to understand the best technology for them and how to implement it in a strategic manner that drives their operations forward.

If you are keen to understand what digital technology can do for your business – and you’re a North West SME in the manufacturing or engineering sector – then please get in touch. Made Smarter can offer you independent, fully funded, digital technology advice and access to leadership training and student placements. What’s more, when you’ve selected the best application for your business, you might be eligible for 50 per cent match funding to help support implementation.

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