Disruptive technologies have become the standard in manufacturing, so much so that it’s easy to forget the unprecedented rate of change we’ve all become accustomed to, and that it all began with a single piece of software that changed life as we know it: the World Wide Web (WWW).
There aren’t many days that have significance for every individual and business around the world, but April 30th is one of them. On this day in 1993, CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, put the WWW into a public domain to ensure an open standard, a tool that would eventually connect the entire world.
The WWW got its start with a single website that’s incredibly underwhelming by today’s standards. It didn’t feature any flashy images, bold headlines or relatable hypertext links, yet it became the basis for countless web-based technologies that would revolutionize everything from the way we work to the way we shop to the way we communicate with one another. It would also go on to revolutionize key areas in manufacturing, like scheduling operations on the plant floor, inventory and supply chain management, and eventually grow into a network connecting 5 billion people worldwide.
It’s safe to say that there isn’t a single manufacturing operation in existence today that could get by without web-based technologies, yet many of us don’t really know what the WWW really is or how it forms the basis of the solutions we use every day. In fact, two whole generations, Generation Z and Generation Alpha, will never know life without it.
What is the World Wide Web?
Most people remember the advent of the internet, which is essentially a massive network of connected computers. Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist at CERN, wanted to make it easier for scientists to collaborate and share information between computers and, in 1989, he went on to invent the World Wide Web.
Behind the scenes of the WWW, there are three components: an addressing scheme that locates documents, a system that connects computers and another that formats pages with hypertext links. These are better known today as URL, HTTP and HTML.
After CERN put the WWW into a public domain, the number of web browsers began to multiply at an exponential rate and new web-based technologies quickly began to take shape. This shift, combined with the growth of the internet and advances in computing technologies, catapulted the world into the Third Industrial Revolution, or Digital Revolution, in the late 1990s.
We’re now well into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, and many manufacturers are experiencing an era of deep disruption characterized by digitalization, digital transformation, data analytics, automation, cloud computing, AI and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – largely thanks to the World Wide Web and, of course, the internet.
The Disruptive Force of Web-based Technologies in Manufacturing
The web connects about 5 billion people worldwide and they all want different things, and usually as quickly as possible. Today’s manufacturers face enormous pressure to keep pace with market demands, global competition and just-in-time deliveries – and technologically driven disruption is deepening the divide between the enterprises that can keep up and those that can’t.
McKinsey & Co. defines digitally-enabled disruptive technologies as those that will transform manufacturing over 10 years and through the lens of Industry 4.0. The web helped bring about numerous industry disruptors, which include tools that leverage the cloud, analytics and intelligence, the IIoT and human-machine interaction.
Digital disruption can’t be avoided, but manufacturers do have a choice in how they respond. And for many, that means accelerating their digital transformation and leveraging digital technologies to recognize opportunities for new value propositions, new products and even new product types.
Extending Manufacturing Capabilities with Cloud ERP
The supply and demand landscape is changing more rapidly than ever before, and its effects can be felt all the way down to the shop floor. Manufacturers need a tool that can help them keep up. A cloud-based, adaptive ERP offers a high level of security and is easy to manage, scale and upgrade, giving manufacturers more time to focus on what matters most. It also helps manufacturers lean into digital disruption and delivers insights that help manufacturers maximize productivity, control costs and eliminate errors. But, it’s important to be wary of the need to over-customize your ERP system. Your cloud ERP should offer excellent out-of-the-box functionality and be set up to be easily modified and updated to reflect your enterprise’s evolving needs.
The Potential of UX Centered Digital Transformation
Today’s manufacturers can’t succeed if they ignore customer needs, but that’s often what happens when a business tries to apply existing strategies in the digital space. Purchasing decisions might happen differently online, and a good user experience design is essential for meeting customers on their terms.
QAD has codified the next-generation user experience with Adaptive UX, an adaptable, role-based and modern UX with personalization and embedded analytics. The solution’s web-based interface offers improved accessibility and other benefits, including:
- Improved productivity
- Real-time analytical insight
- Enhanced employee experience
- Better collaboration
The birth of the web spurred an era of digital disruption that will forever change manufacturing, but it also gave way to disruptive business opportunities that are changing the ways in which companies think about their products, partners, operations and people.
This year, celebrate the anniversary of the World Wide Web by taking time to consider whether digital disruption is working for or against you, and what you can do about it. One thing, at least, is certain – you have the WWW to thank for access to this blog post!