The challenges of benefiting from new technology

The challenges of benefiting from new technology

March 28, 2018

Extracting the benefits offered by new technology

Given the rapid speed of technological advancement in today’s society, many of us are not fazed by the release of new technology. However, as increasingly innovative and intelligent solutions are released, there’s often a split reaction between the digital innovators who want to be the first to implement them and those who hold back, preferring more traditional methods.

In this article, electric motor repair specialist Houghton International discusses how challenging extracting the benefits offered by new technology can be.

Technological challenges in history

Of course, the gadgets we take for granted today wouldn’t have been possible without one of the most major technological advancements: the commoditisation of electricity.
In Manhattan and London in 1881, Thomas Edison built electricity-generating stations. 12 months later and electricity was available as a commodity, changing industry forever.
Factories of the time were largely steam-powered, comprising of large, dangerous parts and machinery. Once electricity was made available, this could all change — but it didn’t.

Despite being almost 20 years following Edison’s electricity stations, fewer than 5% of US factories used electric motors. Many preferred to rely on steam power as they were uncomfortable with the level of change brought about by the introduction of electric motors. It would trigger a change in thinking that many simply didn’t want to consider.

The problem was that implementing electric motors would be disruptive and for many, this outweighed the positives the implementation would bring. Production could take place following logic, rather than the direction of the driveshaft. Factories became safer and cleaner too, while the staff themselves began to set the pace.

Switching an engine with an electric motor may sound simple, but it actually led to a shift in the entire factory’s infrastructure. Eventually, change happened. By the 1920s, manufacturing productivity had increased significantly, as factory owners increasingly implemented electric motors.

Between the commoditisation of electricity and the productivity benefits felt in the 1920s, there was almost 40 years. This makes it clear that benefitting from new technology takes time — we can only reap the benefits when we fully understand how best to use it.

Technological challenges today

As we head towards 2020 rather than the 1920s, we’re still facing a battle between the technological and the traditional. Take electric motors themselves for example. While they have been fully adopted into many applications, business owners are still facing decisions on whether to upgrade their model to one that promises further efficiencies.
Industry 4.0, a development that is sweeping industries, is further widening the gap between those who embrace change and those who don’t. Dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 is transforming industries through automation and real-time data. One example of this is condition monitoring, the process of using technology to monitor the state of machinery to detect significant change and therefore problems.

Involving techniques such as vibration and lubricant analysis as well as acoustic emissions, condition monitoring is a key part of predictive maintenance. For those who have enabled Industry 4.0 already, they are already at an advantage, as they are able to anticipate when maintenance work will be required, in turn reducing the impact unplanned downtime can have. Those who are unaware of the potential of Industry 4.0 are unable to access this level of insight, putting them at an automatic disadvantage.

Benefitting from new technology

As more new technology becomes available, how can businesses position themselves to gain maximum benefit from them?

Make sure you understand the benefits that new technology will bring and how it will work within your existing operations before you invest. Consider the amount of work that is required for implementation and whether this and the associated costs are justified by what you’ll gain. If in doubt, enlist the help of a professional to advise you on the right solution.

There’s no escaping technology in today’s society. Shying away from digital advancements is no longer an option; choose to be an innovator or delay the implementation of these new developments. Either way, change is happening now — and you can’t afford to stand still.

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