False Choices: A Manufacturing Perspective for 2017 By Ann Croom, President, InSource Solutions We agree. Don’t be fooled by false choices. InSource Solutions is lucky enough to live on the edge of technological & process advances in manufacturing and industrial environments. There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on. From advanced technologies and the ideas and innovations they are spawning to increased early STEM educational opportunities that will be required to fuel a manufacturing renaissance to a renewed recognition of how important manufacturing and industrial production is to our local communities and our country as a whole. We have some momentum as an industry. But candidly, it comes at a time in 2016, when the road has been challenging for many industrial producers. Economic headwinds and political uncertainties around the globe have made manufacturing companies second guess additional investments of capital and more importantly focus & energy. Many manufacturer’s businesses are exponentially more complex than they were 10 years ago and the talent to lead and run these businesses is hard to find. It’s hard to know what specific initiatives will advance the organization’s strategy and culture. Hard, but very doable. 2016 brought the market conversation to a tipping point for these technologies: IIot – Industrial Internet of Things Advanced Predictive Analytics Robotics & Cobotics 3D Printing Examining the potential impact on our businesses of these innovations is smart. It only takes a little imagination to picture a digital, data driven factory of the future where automation enhances decision making and where all activities from the raw material supplier thru production to ultimate consumer product performance are connected through a single information platform. This is not a zero to 60 mph proposition. Figuratively speaking, if your facility is still powered by hand cranks, the shift to the George Jetson factory of the future requires a few intermediate steps. But most importantly, as I have learned time and time again when snow skiing on moguls …… indecision kills. PWC’s recently released 2016 Industrial Manufacturing Trends report makes the point. “Despite the risks — and despite recent history — industrial manufacturing companies cannot afford to ignore these [technological] advances. By embracing them now, they can improve productivity in their own plants, compete against rivals, and maintain an edge with customers who are seeking their own gains from innovation.” So, it isn’t really a choice whether or not to embrace innovations in manufacturing with our capital and our energies. It’s a false choice if we want to remain competitive on the world stage. The only decision is how to invest and in 2017, you will find exciting options indeed. Happy New Year everyone!