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Friday, May 03 2019

Process Technology: “Process” Comes Before “Technology”


Against a backdrop of global competition, U.S. manufacturers are increasingly turning to technology to solve their most pressing challenges.  For example, many companies are solving their workforce challenges by retrofitting existing facilities with collaborative robots, which can safely work side-by-side with human workers.  Affordable sensors and analysis software are providing data visibility for managers, enabling them to make informed business decisions regarding their day-to-day operations. 

There are, in fact, a host of amazing emerging technologies that are rapidly commercializing, which are capable of boosting manufacturing capacity, efficiency, and profitability. However, the production process itself is perhaps the most important factor in determining whether a technology will truly yield its anticipated benefits.  Before a new technology is deployed, manufacturers should first understand how and where their production processes need to be improved. 

One of the best tools for accomplishing this task is value-stream mapping.  Value-stream mapping is a Lean methodology for identifying and analyzing waste in the current state of a process and designing a future state with reduced waste.  Once equipped with a clear picture of the process inefficiencies, a manufacturer can better understand which technologies are needed and selectively deploy the right technologies to enhance the process.  Without this knowledge, manufacturers risk spending more than necessary on technologies to fix a bad process, and in some cases, uninformed use of technology can accelerate the amount of waste. 

Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) is a training and consulting organization that has helped hundreds of manufacturers across Indiana become more competitive and profitable.  As trusted advisors, Purdue MEP partners with companies to find solutions for their most pressing issues.  From Lean and Six Sigma training, to quality management system implementation and workforce development, Purdue MEP has a variety of programs led by industry experts to help manufacturers create value through a combination of process improvement methodologies and technology adoption.

New and innovative process technologies will continue to transform the modern manufacturing landscape, but those who take advantage of these advancements effectively and judiciously will reap the biggest rewards.  When you consider your company’s process technology plans, remember the process always comes becomes the technology.

For more information, please contact Bob Goosen with Purdue MEP at

Writer: Robert Goosen, 765-496-4101,

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