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What Separates the Hype from Truly Disruptive Technologies for Manufacturing?

Sept. 20, 2018
Products drive adoption by catering to users’ existing habits and enable disruption by encouraging users to develop (and sustain) new habits.

In Silicon Valley, the term “disruptive technology” is used to describe anything new in technology that may disrupt the traditional way of doing things. The manufacturing industry is experiencing a disruption with Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), machine learning, and 3D printing.

While these technologies will have an impact on how products get made, it’s the users habits that play a much more important role in disruption than the nature of the technology itself. Products drive adoption by catering to users’ existing habits and enable disruption by encouraging users to develop (and sustain) new habits. 

Essentially, it’s not the technologies that are disruptive but rather the user experiences and habits. Whether these new behaviors simplify life, cater to our vices, or play on feelings such as fear or ambition, sometimes even the simplest products can disrupt the human experience.

Disrupting Habits in Manufacturing

Netflix disrupted late-fees and limited selection from renting movies and customers developed the new habit of ordering from their couch with the click of a button. Uber disrupted the frustration of calling a taxi dispatcher and haggling over prices with the cab driver. The iPhone helped users develop new habits by putting the world at their fingertips. If you look at any technology that has been successful in the last few decades, it succeeded because the users developed and sustained new habits.

The manufacturing industry is poised for disruption in a similar way. As much as we talk about smart machines and smart manufacturing, workers on the shop floor still rely on manual data recording, paper-based work orders, spreadsheets, clunky desktop applications, and an internal IT-heavy approach to application and software tooling. While some advanced technologies that enable data-driven decision making exist for the manufacturing world, few have successfully driven new habits for their customers.

It’s not going to be easy. Habits on shop floors are hard to change. There are a lot of intertwined behaviors and best practices that cannot be disrupted in isolation. These often change facility to facility, and industry to industry. While several innovative vendors have successfully maintained a strong focus on simplifying the user experience around specific use cases, manufacturing facilities are now faced with an IIoT portfolio with a dozen different solutions. This does not scale. The responsibility to create an integrated experience for users should not rest on the manufacturing customer.

Simplifying the User Experience

What the industry needs is a single source of truth, and a true manufacturing platform. This solution would not only cater to an existing set of intertwined habits on manufacturing floors, but it would also be an enabler for a broader technology industry to drive change in manufacturing habits and best practices. 

Uber was not the first ride sharing application, Amazon was not the first e-commerce platform, and AirBnB was not the first travel accommodation booking service. If technology were the only factor to disruption, the “late” entrants above would have been a footnote in history. The products and solutions that stand out instead maintain a very strong focus on simplifying the user experience and easing the customers’ digital transformation journey.

Learn more about how today’s manufacturers are leading the digital revolution by downloading The State of Manufacturing Technology Report.

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