Electric motor repairs specialist Houghton International discusses this divide in more detail:
The commoditization of electricity
None of the technological advancements we’ve made over the years would have been possible without the commoditization of electricity.
In 1881, Thomas Edison built electricity-generating stations in Manhattan and London. 12 months later and electricity was available as a commodity, changing industry forever.
Factories then were reliant on steam power and their operations were driven by large, difficult and dangerous machinery. Once electricity was made available, this could all change — but it didn’t.
Despite being eight years after electricity became widely available as a commodity, less than 5% of US factories used electric motors in 1900. 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 the change brought about by electric motors was disruptive, which for many outweighed the performance efficiencies they could drive. 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.
But in order to accommodate for this change, a factory’s entire infrastructure had to be altered. And with time, it did — as change always does. By the 1920s, manufacturing productivity had increased significantly, as factory owners increasingly implemented electric motors.
From electricity’s first commoditization to the growth of manufacturing rates in the 1920s, there was almost 40 years before the change took hold.
Likewise, new technology does not deliver instant results. Rather, we can only reap the benefits when we fully understand how best to use it.
Adopting technology today
Even today, we’re still facing a technological/traditional divide. 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.
This disparity is only widening with Industry 4.0.
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.
Condition monitoring is involved in predictive maintenance and includes tasks such as vibration and lubricant analysis as well as acoustic emissions. 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
In our fast-paced society, we’ll constantly be met with new technology. So what advice can businesses benefit from?
Before you invest in any new technology, thoroughly consider how it will support your existing and future operations. 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.
These days, technology is at the heart of business operations. 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.