ONE of the main themes coming out of the Made Smarter pilot is the need to put people before technology. In this blog post I will explain why this is important to manufacturers, and what they should do about it.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  Arthur C. Clarke

It is common for manufacturing businesses to think of technology implementations as magic. In other words, technology is often viewed as a black box that is understood in terms of its inputs and outputs, without any knowledge of its internal workings. To exaggerate this condition, technology retailers create marketing campaigns – like Industry 4.0 – that package up and sell that magic as a desirable future state; in which all known problems can be easily solved, using AR, VR, Robotics, Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, or other sufficiently advanced sounding terms.

Our mission on the Made Smart NW Pilot is the ‘widespread adoption of technologies across supply chains, especially within SMEs’.  The key word in our mission statement is adoption – which the dictionary defines as: The action or fact of choosing to take up, follow, or use something.

Often, SMEs come to us with the technology-as-magic mindset. They want funding from us to help them buy the technology to make things happen. It's my job as a Specialist Adviser to pull their desired future apart and think practically about the steps they need to take in order to get them there. This always starts with people not technology.

It's easy to think that developments in technology make people less important, in fact the reverse is true. People, not technology, meet challenges. Technology allows for options and opportunities, but it is how we choose to use those technologies that determines success.

How is Made Smarter putting people first?

We aim to involve people in all steps of the problem-solving process. Firstly, we learn directly from the manufacturers we work with, by immersing ourselves in their operations, to deeply understand their needs. We then make sense of what we’ve learned, identify opportunities for intervention, and, whenever possible, prototype possible solutions. We give structure to this strategy in the form of a Technology Roadmap. This is a statement of intent. It isn’t a set-in-stone plan but rather a living document, which can change in-line with the findings of our work. The technology roadmap acts as the foundation for on-going support.  This can take the form of expert technical advice, or grant funding to kick-start investments.

Please get in touch if you want help to realise the magical promise of technology in your manufacturing business, through our people-first approach.