I was recently chatting with my dad when he mentioned that he was mulling over the prospect of purchasing an Apple watch. He’s a young 62, and what I’d call an early adopter when it comes to technology. A subscriber to Macworld magazine since the 1980s, he’s always kept an eye out for the latest and greatest.
But when he mentioned the Apple watch, I recalled a not-so-distant Christmas morning – 2015, in fact – where he unwrapped a smart watch and spent the day perusing the instruction manual. “Don’t you already own a brand new smart watch?” I asked.
“All I can do with my smart watch is ask it the time,” he said. “And I have to press a button to do it.”
This exchange made me laugh because, despite being raised in a family of “gadget guys,” I’ve never really taken a lot of interest in the most cutting edge thing on the market. It seems to me that for every smart widget that makes your life easier, there’s one that does the complete opposite. You don’t believe me? Watch someone try to dial their phone using voice command, and tell me if it’s less time consuming – or less distracting – than pressing a few buttons.
We often hear from our manufacturing readers that they avoid investing in new technologies for reasons like these. They don’t really see the benefits and, perhaps, all the bells and whistles seem to add to the complexity of a process that may not need the fine tuning. I agree… within reason. But to add a little food for thought, Fortune has outlined “the 12 disruptive tech trends you need to know” and some of them, I’ll admit, are ripe for adoption, especially in the manufacturing space. Notably, the article mentions:
- 3D printing. I’d wager to guess that many of you have been beaten over the head with this term but not seen much in terms of practical application. Well, that’s about to change, as many experts anticipate this technology to be at a tipping point, especially for B2B applications. Think about what a game changer it would be to say goodbye to some of your physical inventory or offer lightning fast repair services to your customers. It’s on the horizon, as 3D printing technology gets faster, cheaper and compatible with more materials.
- IoT – Internet of Things. It’s on the tip of every tongue, but should we believe the hype? ‘Fraid so. Wired magazine recently said that 2015 was the year everyone talked about the Internet of Things, which was no different than the two years prior. “But unlike before,” said Wired, “it was the year everyone started making plans, laying groundwork, and building the infrastructure for the day when all our devices are connected.” Think about IoT as control, and a great way to get a handle on the data you need to reduce operating costs and increase profitability.
- Cloud. If you haven’t, it’s time. Cloud computing levels the playing field when it comes to IT infrastructure costs. For SMEs, this is a major opportunity to sidestep what was once a growing pain that kept small companies small. And for large companies, competition will steepen as a result. As Fortune points out, “large companies in almost every field are vulnerable, as start-ups become better equipped, more competitive and able to reach customers and users everywhere.”
In the end, if you can’t get a handle on that critical three letter word (R.O.I.), then any of the latest high tech business solutions will likely wind up sharing dumpster space with a lightly used smart watch. But I encourage you to take a serious look at the aforementioned since they may just live up to the hype.
And for the early adopters in the crowd: stick to the basics before you start buying commercial space on Mars. And don’t throw over your perfectly good, old-fashioned wrist watch for the flashy, younger model. They say a good relationship is one where the parties can know what the other is thinking by just a glance. I bet you two have a good thing going.