The ability to innovate is a driver of productivity, competitiveness and prosperity. Innovation requires entrepreneurs to rethink and adopt new approaches to their businesses, and embracing new technologies and manufacturing opportunities can distinguish you from your competitors.
But what are some powerful tech trends that can drive company success? What should you pay attention to?
Here are five trends that, if you haven’t embraced them yet, have the potential to transform your business.
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired By Nature
Biomimicry is the design and production of materials, structures and systems that are modeled after biological organisms and processes.
“It’s not really technology or biology; it’s the technology of biology. It’s making a fiber like a spider, or lassoing the sun’s energy like a leaf,” Janine Benyus co-founder of the international organization Biomimicry 3.8, writes.
Companies are increasingly looking at ways to incorporate biologically inspired design into their products, and organizations like Biomimicry 3.8 are helping them redesign carpets, furniture, airplanes and even entire manufacturing processes.
In Northeast Ohio, Great Lakes Biomimicry, a founding affiliate partner of Biomimicry 3.8, is working with schools, companies and economic development organizations to engage students, entrepreneurs and funders to advance the field.
The University of Akron has committed $4.25 million to biomimicry research and innovation, and companies like Parker Hannifin and Sherwin-Williams are getting involved. They realize biomimicry has many applications, particularly when it comes to creating sustainable technologies.
“Biomimicry represents the possibility of a revolutionary change in our economy, transforming many of the ways we think about designing, producing, transporting and distributing goods and services,” Tom Tyrrell, founder and CEO of Great Lakes Biomimicry, says. “This field is just emerging. Nazarene University’s Fermanian Institute estimates, by 2025, biomimicry could represent $300 billion of the annual U.S. GDP, account for 1.6 million U.S. jobs and represent $1 trillion of global GDP.”
Additive Manufacturing: Innovation From A Printer
Additive manufacturing is becoming a viable manufacturing alternative, particularly for makers of highly customized products. The technology can significantly reduce the time and cost it takes to design and produce prototypes. Thus, additive manufacturing is particularly well suited for R&D.
But additive manufacturing has evolved to a point where it now also makes sense for volume production. Combining the technology with printed electronics, for example, could create the next generation of embedded electronics.
Printed electronics can be directly applied to 3D surfaces to advance integration, size and weight reduction, durability and performance. This provides new opportunities for electronic device manufacturers, who want to pack more functionality into less space.
Youngstown, Ohio, is the center of additive manufacturing at the moment. The region is home to America Makes, also known as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Its goal is to elevate additive manufacturing into mainstream manufacturing.
The Internet of Things: A Web Of Innovation
There’s lots of talk about “the Internet of Things.” But what exactly does it mean?
Simply, the Internet of Things refers to a network of physical objects with embedded technology that is connected (either wired or wirelessly) for communication, remote control, data transfer or some other function. Sensors, radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and microelectronics are critical components of the Internet of Things.
Connecting products, machines or entire factories to the Internet can increase efficiency and reduce the loss of information. This potentially has far-reaching implications and impact across many industries. Already, coffee shops, airports and major corporations like Rockwell Automation have embraced the Internet of Things. Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers calls it the “fourth wave of the Internet.”
“We believe we’re at an inflection point, driven by the convergence of integrated control and information technologies, and accelerated by the arrival of the Internet of Things,” Rockwell Chairman and CEO Keith Nosbusch said. “We call this vision ‘The Connected Enterprise.’ It involves industrial operations that are more productive, more agile and more sustainable.”
Software: Transforming Traditional Industries
“Today’s manufacturing is really one of the most sophisticated industries in the world,” Siemens USA CEO Eric Spiegel said recently. “That’s mainly because software has really transformed the whole manufacturing process.”
Spiegel made his remarks at the “Building the Future: Manufacturing’s Software Revolution” event in Norwood, Ohio, where Siemens announced a $66.8 million in-kind software grant to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. It gave additional grants to Mott Community College ($55.8 million) and Youngstown State University ($440 million) to train students how to use its product lifecycle management software in careers like robotics design and computer-aided engineering.
But software is not only impacting the manufacturing industry. Tech and non-tech businesses large and small are in need of software solutions to respond to customer demands and process large amounts of data. It’s no surprise the demand for software engineers is higher than ever and many businesses can’t find enough people to fill open positions, according to Today’s Engineer.
Big Data: Understanding Your Customers
The ability to collect, process and interpret large and complex data sets, known as Big Data, is at the core of many business operations. It allows you to more effectively communicate with consumers, perform risk-analyses and create new revenue streams, among other things.
“The ability to evaluate and apply data has always been an integral part of an organization’s success. But the unprecedented amount of information available today demands far more sophisticated approaches to analysis and execution,” said former Microsoft COO Bob Herbold, who recently donated $2.6 million to launch a data science program at Case Western Reserve University.
Big data increases the efficiency of shipping companies and retailers, for example, and makes manufacturers more efficient and responsive to clients’ needs.
“The potential that exists today to enhance operations and outcomes is nearly limitless,” Herbold said. null
How have you embraced any of these trends? What are some other innovations that have taken your business to the next level?
Share your insights by commenting below or send me a tweet at @NorTech!