In today’s world, small to mid-sized manufacturing companies are in a difficult spot when considering how to take the correct steps towards adopting new technology or business processes. They do not have easy access to industry experts and consultants like their bigger siblings in Fortune 1000 ranks. Based on this gap in exposure, they often struggle to get insight into trends, opportunities, and innovation for where to best invest. To confuse the issue further, they are bombarded by a myriad of technology vendors with point solutions that are very specific to a particular need but do not provide a cure for all that ails them. They know they should tweak and tune their manufacturing processes, but struggle to transition their business from the prior manufacturing approaches to those of a lean culture.
Often, the result of this “full frontal” assault is that a manufacturer will take the plunge on a technology point solution that makes significant promises but may not capture all the details of their true need. Consequently, they fall well short of realizing the potential of the solution that they thought would cure their pains (at least a little). As a holistic technology consultant and solution company, Avanceon has tried to close the gap for our small / mid-size customers but we lack the scale and business alignment to support the large and diverse number of companies that need this help. We are strong at connecting the dots for manufacturers at a detailed vision and plan level (and then executing the plan), but that approach fits about half of the small to mid-sized market.
The U.S. government also sees the gap in meeting the needs of small to mid-sized manufacturers. The goal of the U.S. government is to stimulate innovation and growth in American manufacturing, as well as ensure the same innovation gets transferred to defense providers (i.e. we want to continue to have the most innovative and solid defense possible in the world). As a result, they developed, through the United States Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). Through the MEP the Government stimulates the growth and penetration of new ideas and technologies to those that would otherwise not have access to them.
In the Philadelphia / Delaware valley region, the MEP relies on the efforts of the DVIRC (Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center) to promote and drive the concepts of Industry 4.0, lean manufacturing, and strong investment in the human element. The DVIRC is tasked with reaching out to this segment of the manufacturing community, engaging to drive innovation and efficiency. Avanceon has worked with the DVIRC to meet the people development and technical innovation needs for a number of manufacturers in the local community. It was encouraging to see the method and scale of help the resource center could provide to those that would often go underserved.
At Avanceon we see the value of, and the need for, the matchmaking and consultative role of the DVIRC and organizations like them around the country to drive innovation at the grass roots level. We think it’s a great step in the right direction. What do you see as an answer to solve the innovation gap in manufacturing?
Matt Ruth is President of Avanceon, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Avanceon, visit its profile on the CSIA Industrial Automation Exchange.