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Transformative Technologies

As Dr. Seuss wrote in The Lorax, “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” Today, the good doctor’s thought could be applied to the aspirations that manufacturers have for Manufacturing 4.0’s transformative technologies.

Manufacturing has long been the industry of dreaming big, and the potential of digital technology is allowing for even bigger dreams. However, while manufacturers are clear on the possibilities that could be brought forth through data and digitalization, that’s where the clarity ends. In the MLC’s latest Transformative Technologies survey, 46% agreed that the rapid pace of emerging technologies is causing their company to fall behind in evaluating and understanding their potential. But 31% of respondents disagreed with that statement. If I were in that first group, I’d be nervous about that second group and wondering which of my competitors might be among them.

By its very nature, a revolution of any type will cause massive disruptions, and the current one in progress is no different than those that preceded it. However, those who choose to take a passive approach by waiting to see what others do are putting themselves in a precarious position. It might be a time of indecision, but it is not a time of inaction.

A panelist on a recent MLC Critical Issues debate said that it was wrong to think of data as the new oil, because oil is finite and will eventually run out. Data, however, has no such limits, and its proliferation appears boundless. What’s limiting us, then, besides our imagination?

Yes, it’s arduous, confusing, and turbulent to make transformative change. It involves hard work and likely a lot of missteps. But it comes down to a decision to see this as a challenge with potentially enormous payoffs vs. a burden to be avoided. The question is: are you seeing it, as Dr. Seuss would say, for “what it can become”? M

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