Investing In Your Technology: A Guide to Keeping Up With (and Staying Ahead of) Manufacturing Innovation
Technology is accelerating at an unrivaled speed today. You only need to look around your home to see it; the PC you once relied on just a few years ago is now collecting dust in the corner of your basement. The laptop you replaced it with has probably even been upgraded a few times.
You’ll notice similar signs of technological evolution in your shop—the manufacturing machines and software that were state-of-the-art just five years ago are not nearly as intuitive, fast, or accurate as what’s available on the market today.
But how do you keep up? And more importantly, how do you make sure your competitors aren’t getting ahead?
At my organization, Sirois Tool Co., we consistently upgrade our equipment. Since 2018, we’ve added four new HAAS CNC machines, two Zeiss Contra CMMs, an AgieCharmilles Cut P 350, and a Grob G350. Adding the Grob, equipped with a second pallet, more than doubled our 5-axis capabilities while increasing the accuracy and precision of the parts we produce.
Our HAAS UMC-750 5 Axis Machining Center provides the capability to machine more complex tools and parts with less set-ups and in less time.
Our equipment investments don’t end with machines, either. Last year, we streamlined our quoting process by integrating Paperless Parts’ quoting and estimating software with our ERP platform, effectively reducing the time spent on data entry by 50%.
As a manufacturing business leader, it can be a challenge to set time aside to explore new and upgraded technologies. Having a plan can make it feel a little less overwhelming.
There are 3 simple (yet not always easy) strategies that many people aren’t taking advantage of that can help you consistently stay on top of new technological advancements in the manufacturing industry:
Keep Your Eyes (and Mind) Open
You likely get a lot of calls and invitations to check out new technology that—let’s face it—you ignore. But events like Original Equipment Manufacturers’ open houses, webinars, trade shows, and yes, even those disruptive vendors who cold call your office, deserve some of your attention. Failing to evaluate the potential ROI of these opportunities could lead you to miss out on a product or service that might save (or earn) your business considerable time and money.
There are also many used equipment providers. The machines they offer might not be the latest models, but if they’re an upgrade from what you currently have and are in your price range, they could be a great investment.
Harness the Power of Networking
“It’s not about what you know, it’s who you know,” often holds true. Staying in touch with your manufacturing peers is a great way to stay on top of new industry developments. Accept invitations to meet, even if only briefly. You’ll be amazed by how much you can learn over a cup of coffee.
Industry associations are also a great way to stay in the know; connecting the minds of hundreds of manufacturing leaders is what drives innovation. The National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) puts on events year-round, or if you’re looking for meet-ups on a smaller scale, NTMA’s regional chapters often hold regular meetings.
Did you know that NTMA members receive a 25% discount on Paperless Parts’ onboarding fee?
Find the Funding
Once you’ve decided that you must invest in new technology to remain competitive, the next step is determining how to pay for it. Easier said than done, right?
Thankfully, there are a number of federal and state-specific programs that provide a significant amount of funding for manufacturing companies. This money typically comes in the form of low-interest loans, grants, vouchers, and fund-matching programs.
Much of this funding goes unclaimed each year because business owners aren’t aware of these programs. Exploring your options before you buy is a smart move: once you’ve signed a PO, it’s too late to qualify for funding.
Innovate or Fall Behind
The bottom line: you must remain cognizant of advancements in machinery and technology—and continually invest in them—if you want to succeed.
All of these enhancements and additions have supercharged our productivity and helped our business stay competitive. Learning about them was the crucial first step.
Never underestimate the value of understanding your weaknesses, exploring new opportunities, and investing in ways to realize the full potential of your business. Take another look around—what areas of your shop deserve some extra attention?
Find out how Sirois Tool team members work more efficiently and collaboratively using Paperless Parts.
Alan Ortner, CEO of Sirois Tool Co. Inc., has been with the company for over 30 years. Located in Berlin, CT, Sirois Tool is a precision machining and tooling company that supports the aerospace, automotive, firearm, and medical industries. In addition to his role with Sirois Tool, Alan also chairs the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA). He is passionate about volunteering with the NTMA and similar organizations to share what he’s learned and help others in the manufacturing industry succeed. Check out Alan’s other blog posts contributed for In the Shop: Investing in your People and Investing in Your Future.