In the press release concerning our new division I stated that we find ourselves in the largest technological race since the cold war, and I believe that. But there is a cause that has enabled the advancement I am witnessing in almost every industry: a sea change in the technology and our thought processes concerning its application. What was futuristic is rapidly becoming present tense, and what was expectant we have now come to expect if not now, very soon.
From autonomous craft to anatomical parts, what we now have in our possession is a conclusion that,
whatever it is, it WILL be done. That it is possible. What makes this unique is that it isn’t a single rare
individual or corporation with a new widget – it is a thought process that has gained traction and
permeated our society. This attribute wasn’t present during the first decade of this century the way it is
now even though the ideas were present. And it is critical to project success.
In the 80’s and early 90’s drones were being experimented with and employed, but not widely used. Fast forward to today: the battlefield is now forever changed by the capability that has arisen with unmanned vehicles. 3D printing originated in the early 80’s and now has evolved from plastics to metals, with printing being combined with CNC milling, providing the ability to create extremely complicated single-piece parts. We now even have prosthetic limbs being connected to the human brain to enable amputees to feel once more. Nanotechnology is on the rise and will forever change medicine, especially as we gain further knowledge of DNA sequencing and cellular level activity.
In my opinion the single most important factor that these successes and the many others like them have in common is the knowledge that it is possible. Not just belief, but a knowledge that it can be done. Many advancements have occurred outside of corporations, by individuals with education and desire. Still more have advanced because of the backing that only corporations can provide. I recently saw a video of a company who is planning to create a functional steel bridge with 3D printing. This points the way to autonomous building of structures in cities and extreme environments – others have this in mind and will capitalize on this niche with an eye to bringing it mainstream. I recently oversaw the planning and implementation of a robotic welding system in a manufacturing plant that outperformed a much larger manual-based plant. Was the technology bleeding edge? No, but it firmly showed how big of an impact our current technology and process will continue to have upon our manufacturing industries and ultimately our personal lives.
As society proceeds further down this technological path it is critical to understand the manufacturing industry must move with the industry and equip itself appropriately with both knowledge and functionality in order to support the needs that are arising every day. At an organization level, this is the key to remaining relevant and profitable. The momentum behind the growth in technology is, if anything, attempting to pick up speed and capitalize upon the possibilities. The implications and opportunities are huge.