Automation and data collection will be key for manufacturers this year

Last updated on May 10th, 2022 at 09:49 pm

Affordable automation and advanced manufacturing will accelerate in 2015 to make the U.S. manufacturing environment more attractive than it has been in years, according to Todd Teske, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Wauwatosa-based small engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton Corp.
The cost of robotics has come down dramatically over the past several years, which means Wisconsin manufacturers have more access to automation that could make their plants more efficient.

Teske, who will be  a featured panelist at the Northern Trust Economic Trends Breakfast to be presented by BizTimes Media on Jan. 29, said this trend will likely widen the existing “skills gap” in manufacturing as existing manual jobs are eliminated and employees are required to have the skills to support the new automated techniques.

“Until we kind of work our way through this ‘Everyone has to have a four-year degree’ (mentality), it’s going to be more pronounced, and I think this country and this state are going to miss an opportunity to be that much more competitive,” Teske said. “We are starting to see a manufacturing renaissance that is going on here in the U.S. and Wisconsin, with its manufacturing history, should be there right at the forefront.”

Teske also predicts that computing power will continue to change the value proposition for low-tech products in 2015.
Well-known products that have been around for a long time can be reinvented—and drive greater value—through the use of data and technology, combined with effective marketing and analysis by manufacturers. For example, Briggs & Stratton now offers “Infohub,” through which a standby generator transfers data to a smartphone application to allow a customer to monitor its health. If you need data management services for your business, companies like Cyral may be of help.

“When you start to associate computing power with an engine, for example, you start to change the value proposition,” he said. “It’s really that interface between the (chief information officer) and the (chief marketing officer) that allows the opportunity to capture value along the way.”
Retailing strategies will also come into focus for manufacturers in 2015, Teske said.

Omni-channel retailing, or offering customers the option to buy a product from a brick-and-mortar store, online, through a mobile device, in a catalog and elsewhere, will change historical distribution channels.

“The thing that becomes interesting is…there’s some folks that don’t deal with big box (stores), but they have distributors and they have dealers,” Teske said. “There’s an opportunity to use omni-channel retailing to be able to compete on a distribution side in a better way.”

The opportunity lies in better communicating with customers, helping them understand the product and services, and allowing them to choose how they want to buy a product, Teske said.

“I think at the end of the day, the thought of better adapting to what’s going on with Internet practices and being able to communicate with your customer, that becomes really important,” Teske said.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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