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Survey Says: Top 10 Tech Trends (#10-6)

Topics: Distribution, ERP, Manufacturing, technology, trends, drones, survey, facial recognition, virtual reality, tablets, wearables

Posted on Aug 24, 2017 10:19:16 AM by Nick Mears

Top 10 Countdown of
Today's Trending Technologies


Macola recently commissioned a survey of manufacturing and distribution professionals in the US regarding the factors that were driving business and technology strategies (Manufacturing & Wholesale Distribution: 2017 Business & Technology Trend Reports).

One of the first questions in our survey was, “What is the biggest external driver of change?”, and offered the following choices:

  • pending regulatory changes on trade
  • rising e-commerce usage
  • mergers and acquisitions
  • advances in technology
  • infrastructure improvements

The top answer was decisive—over 70% chose emerging tech and IT innovations.Distributors Trend eBook_7.17.17.jpg

As proven by the results of this survey, emerging technology and IT innovations are significantly disrupting business models. Also, survey respondents appear to be embracing the “fourth industrial revolution,” finding value in 3D printing, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), wearables, virtual reality and other tools to their operations.

But with all these new technologies, it can be hard to distinguish the new technology trends that may provide value (either now or in the not too distant future) from the trends that are merely hype. To help with this, we asked these same survey participants what technological innovations they are currently utilizing in their organization. We found the answers to be quite illuminating and want to share the top ten list via this blog, and this particular blog post covers the 10th through 6th top-ranked trends:


#10 - Drones


Our survey shows that 19% of manufacturers and 31% of distributors currently use drones.

What’s interesting is that of those manufacturers who don’t use drones, 36% intend to use them in the future, and 40% of distributors are very interested in future drone usage.


Organizations such as Amazon are leveraging are testing drone usage for both internal use (warehouse) as well as external delivery. Walmart is also testing drones for use in their warehouses, and they are discovering that what once were time-consuming tasks--such as a manual inventory check that used to take an entire month to complete--now only takes a single day with the usage of drones:

“Walmart has tested 'image capture' by drones in warehouses — up to 30 pictures per second — and can mark missing items in real time. Walmart reported to Reuters that its drones can check a full warehouse inventory in about a day. That process previously took up to a full month to do manually.” - Drones in Warehouses — When Will They Take Off?, Robotics Business Review


#9 - Facial Recognition



Our survey discovered that 27% of manufacturers and 41% of distributors currently use facial recognition.

facial recognition.png

The thing with facial recognition is that it can be used as an alternative to manually logging in and out, for example, at the start of a shift.  Imagine a warehouse shipping station where employees from different shifts are using the same computer, but now imagine that this particular computer also has facial recognition capabilities. With facial recognition, this computer can automatically detect when a different user steps up, which automatically logs out the old user and automatically logs in the new user. It can also, through facial recognition, automatically display the last items that the new user was working on last.

This is something that Macola Labs is currently working on. In fact, we demoed an example of this at the Evolve conference in New Orleans earlier this year, and we're excited where this could take us.


#8 - Virtual Reality

virtual reality.jpg


CURRENT VIRTUAL REALITY USAGE: 30% of manufacturers while 48% of distributors currently use virtual reality.

FUTURE VIRTUAL REALITY USAGE: Of those who don’t currently use virtual reality, 36% of manufacturers who don't use it plan to use it in the future and 31% of distributors who don't use it, plan to use virtual reality in the future.virtual recognition.png

So what are the benefits of virtual reality for those in manufacturing and distribution? One such benefit involves new product design, and the time it could take to discover a problem with this new product—which normally could take weeks without VR, but finding a problem with VR could be much quicker:

“Virtual Reality has created a fresh slant to predictive analytics. One of the disappointments of the world we live in is the uncertainty of outcomes. This is where predictive analytics comes into play. The knack to predict an outcome before it happens is tremendously valuable, and VR technology is making this much easier. Finding a mistake in a product design could take weeks using conventional methods. But, if there can be a simulated interaction with the product via a headset such as the Oculus Rift, the problem, if there is one, can be recognized very quickly…”   -Virtual Reality in Manufacturing, Manufacturing Tomorrow


#7 - Tablets + Voice Recognition

tablets and voice recognition.jpg


Our survey discovered that 39% of manufacturers while 55% of distributors use tablets with voice recognition. This is a very interesting stat because this is the second highest utilized technology trend for distributors. Apparently, the mobility and speed that combining tablets with voice recognition for wholesale distributors is vital. This is something that we at Macola see as a growing trend, and it's something that you would see with the Macola 10.5 release.tablets and voice recogntion.png

“With Macola 10.5, a tablet-led approach refreshes its user interface while offering a stronger experience on tablets—in addition to the desktop. Now, Macola 10.5’s responsive design automatically adjusts to format for the best user experience on whatever device is being used. Mission-critical business and operational data can now be accessed on the fly on mobile devices by users, synchronizing in Macola 10 in real-time. This especially benefits order processing and inventory management, giving the user a holistic view of the operation and inventory levels, from anywhere and on any device.” - New Release – Macola 10.5

So what does this mean for manufacturers and distributors? In the old days, a legacy ERP system, accessed via a desktop computer was par for the course. But those days are long gone. For example, many manufacturers are not only moving away from the desktop computer, but away from laptops as well, and replacing them with tablets that can be used anywhere on the shop floor.

Clearly, manufacturers are revolutionizing the way they operate by combining mobile devices, such as tablets, with ERP:

“For Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp., USA (KMM), the decision to use iPads on the manufacturing floor came from a plan to replace its card-based Kanban system with a more efficient electronic method that could better manage its just-in-time parts system…the initial effort saved Kawasaki from using 4,500 Kanban cards per day, and ultimately led to $3,500 in operational savings per day and a quick ROI.” -Tablet Use, Mobility in the Manufacturing Sector Gains Traction, TechTarget: ManufacturingERP


#6 - Wearables

wearables glasess warehouse_v2.jpg


Our survey shows that 70% of manufacturing respondents are currently using wearables (i.e. watches and glasses) in their operations. Users of wearables cited production efficiency, cost savings, and worker safety as the areas positively affected by their implementation. It should be noted that at 70%, this is tied for the most utilized technology for manufacturers. By contrast, 34% of distributors currently use wearables. The benefits of wearables are clearly more valued by manufacturers, at least for now.


Of those manufacturers who don’t currently use wearables, 62% plan to use them in the future. This is the 2nd highest “plan to use” technology for manufacturers. For distributors on the other hand, and at least for the time being, 38% plan to use wearables in the future.

Think that wearable technology such as Google Glass or the smart watch is just a fad?  Think again. Juniper Research says shipments of wearable devices are predicted to be almost 130 million by 2018 – ten times higher than earlier predictions (Wearable device shipments to reach 130 million by 2018)

Wearable technology means that keeping track of what’s happening on the line no longer has to be tied to a computer. Imagine wearing a cuff that fits seamlessly around your forearm displaying line speed, in real time. Worried about employee safety? Wearable technology can help keep track of what’s going on with employees. Imagine a system that would allow you to see that somewhere along your line, productivity is being slowed by fatigued workers. Or a system that leverages smart glasses can actively scan and overlay physical reality with digital information, screens or text:

“Just as hand-held barcode scanners, voice-directed picking headsets and mobile devices—such as smart phones and tablets—enhanced worker mobility and productivity in a variety of areas, so too will AR smart glasses…adoption of smart glasses is going to accelerate over the next 18 to 24 months because of the visual component they offer alongside other hands-free technologies, especially multi-lingual voice-direction and speech recognition.” Augmented Reality Smart Glasses”, MHI Solutions: Improving Supply Chain Performance


One Final Takeaway

It should be noted that our survey also shows that over 90% of manufacturers and distributors currently use ERP systems and have found them extremely valuable across operations. Also, nearly every respondent listed the benefits of ERP, from document management, automation of workflows, business intelligence, process management, CRM, accessibility to real-time data. This comes as little surprise to us, as we have been getting this type of positive feedback regarding the benefits of Macola 10

But outside ERP, emerging technology and IT innovations are leading American manufacturers and distributors into a time of transformation--and enormous opportunity. Be sure take advantage of these conditions by capitalizing on business opportunity and growth. 


Next Post: Trends #1-5...

Please check back as our next post will cover the top 5 trends, which will include 3D printing and the IoT, amongst others. In the meantime, please learn more about the survey in the Manufacturing & Wholesale Distribution 2017 Business & Technology Trend Reports:

Distributors Trend eBook_7.17.17.jpg

Download the Manufacturing & Technology Trend Reports


Learn about all emerging technologies in our newest infographic, Emerging Technology in the Supply Chain: Manufacturers and Wholesale Distributors Weigh In:

Trend Survey infograhpic_7.17.17.jpg

Download the Emerging Tech Trends Infographic


Watch the complete on demand webinar, 2017 Business and Technology Trends Survey Results:

Webinar -Industry Trends Survey_7.17.17.jpg

View the On-Demand Trends Webinar

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