It’s no secret the manufacturing industry has been confronted with major challenges the last couple of years.

Beyond pandemic closures – supply chain breakdowns, labor shortages and rising material costs continue to present major production obstacles. And if that hasn’t been enough to deal with, you can add inflation and economic uncertainty to the mix.

Despite this, manufacturing can bounce back. But to stay competitive during this ramp-up, you must invest in new technology and learn to use it to your full potential.

Let’s take a closer look at the tools and tech your facility needs to stay one step ahead.

Warehouse Management Systems and Enterprise Resource Platforms

In today’s world, cloud-based technology continues to become a necessity for manufacturers. Leaders are starting to realize digital solutions are more secure and practical, meaning paper processes are becoming a thing of the past.

Two popular digital tools for warehouses include:

  • WMS:A warehouse management system combines software, hardware, and processes with the intent of tracking a product’s journey within a warehouse. Keeping track of inventory, knowing which goods to pull, and getting products shipped out is more efficient than every before when this information is centralized. A WMS helps you make more informed decisions by comprising a comprehensive analysis of all warehouse’s operations.
  • ERP:An Enterprise Resource Platform is a system of integrated and centralized applications that help to manage and automate recurring tasks. In an industry such as manufacturing, where efficiency is constantly sought yet difficult to find, an ERP allows for unprecedented visibility, coordination, and management across the disparate processes that make up a business (like inventory and shipping) — resulting in greater operational efficiency.

It’s important these systems are used consistently in order to maximize your investment. To get the most use, prioritize proper training for your team until they are confident with the platform. In addition, when using a WMS, scope out all features from the beginning to ensure you aren’t paying for applications that aren’t beneficial.

Real-Time Location Systems

Increasing supply chain visibility is crucial as delays and other process issues continue to become major problems for warehouses. That’s where real-time location systems (RTLS) come into play.

RTLS allows you to keep track of where a product is, what stage of the process it’s in, and its current condition, so you can make more informed decisions about your inventory and production process. Living up to customer expectations and offering more accurate information to customers is an added plus.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology has been trending over the last number of years. As technology advances, its application has spread across the manufacturing industry to develop a smarter and more connected plant floor to attain enhanced quality and greater operational visibility. Current research indicates that the global industrial wearables market is expected to reach $8.4 billion by 2027, from $3.79 billion in 2019.

There are several ways that wearable technology can impact manufacturing and help redefine the way employees complete their tasks. They include:

  • Improve Safety: wearable tech will help you make your workplace accident-proof by addressing the potential issues that may be going on around them. For instance, let’s say someone is walking down a small path trapped by tall, packed shelving on either side. They don’t know what is on the other side of the shelves nor what they might encounter when they exit the pathway. Smart wearables (like connected helmets or eyewear), are able to locate the exact location of objects and equipment by using a local network, helping workers steer clear of a potential accident.
  • Increase Efficiency and Productivity: the introduction of voice-first wearable tech has helped eliminate the friction that exists with handheld devices. For example, employees wearing headsets with a microphone connected to voice-activated technology allows them to receive picking information via an automated voice. This way, the employee doesn’t need to circle back or refer to order paperwork, streamlining your picking process.
  • Improve Security Planning and Authentication: certain settings in the manufacturing industry require proper security protocols like authenticating workers or third parties before they access particular areas of a property. With the help of wearable technology, warehouses are able to track workers’ movements and even block or allow specific actions. For example, let’s say you need to provide an employee access to a part of your plant for a temporary timeframe. With technology, you can grant entry access to their mobile device, headset, or wristband. Then once they’ve completed the task, you can revoke their access again.

For wearable technologies to work in an organizational setting, you must ensure they offer workers proper functionality without sidetracking them or placing them in dangerous scenarios.

Product Configurators

For manufacturers in particular, the internet has made connecting with distributors and selling products to a widespread audience much easier than it once was. And it’s no secret that today’s architects and engineers want a remarkable customer experience. In fact, studies have found that 73% of b2b buyers are looking for an easy, personalized purchasing process.

Insert: Product Configurators.

Product configurators simplify complex products by allowing users to interact with them before making a purchase. For example, let’s say your customer is looking to purchase corrugated metal roofing and siding products for their next freight car project. They must choose from a variety of metal types, material finishes, decide between painted and unpainted materials, and select the correct product specs. That’s a tough job on paper.

With the help of a product configurator on your website, visitors can customize and visualize products in real time, understand how they work, and easily request a custom quote of their exact product (check out CMI’s new product configurator to see how it works). When you provide this kind advanced data on-demand, it accelerates the design process and delivers immense value to your audience.

Stay Competitive

Applying technology to your manufacturing business can decrease costs, increase efficiency, and reduce waste. In addition, technology can help you improve quality control while ensuring superior products that will benefit you and the consumers alike.

But going digital in your own facility isn’t enough. It’s also crucial you work with advanced vendors and suppliers who embrace technology to help streamline your processes.

At CMI, we’re continuously innovating and ensuring we stay one step ahead to provide the best value and experience to our customers.

If you’re ready to learn how our unrivaled capabilities and revolutionary new product configurator will fuel growth in your business, get in touch today.