William J. Holstein
Remember when it was cool to make a 3D printed keychain? Well, those days are gone. 3D manufacturing has achieved a major shift in its lifecycle: it is now scalable.This means that companies large and small are going beyond simple prototyping and are now using 3D for complete production runs.
➡ BEGIN BY FORGING AN INTERNAL CONSENSUS among key constituencies in your company about what you are trying to achieve. One key question is how much of your system can be offsite in the cloud versus on-premises. You don’t want to change technical specifications after you launch. That can lead to cost overruns and delays, known as ERP “bloat.” ➡ PICK A TECHNOLOGY PARTNER CAREFULLY. Most SMEs will not deal directly with an SAP or Microsoft, but rather with one of their local channel partners. Rather than a vendor relationship, this is more like a marriage in which your partner will learn your innermost secrets. Check references to make sure the provider has strong service capabilities in your geographic area and knows your industry. ➡ WITH CLOUD SOLUTIONS, IT IS USUALLY BETTER to accept software that is considered industry best practice rather than insist on customized solutions. The more customization you have, the greater the challenges of maintaining integration as different underlying programs are updated by providers. “Customization of software in the SME space should be considered a four-letter word,” says SAP’s Kevin Gilroy. ➡ CONCENTRATE ON MAKING THE SYSTEM EASY TO USE. “The No. 1 reason for failure,” says Microsoft’s Gordon Macdonald, “is not poor software design. It’s because the folks in your organization don’t like using the tool and therefore don’t adopt it.” ➡ MAINTAIN C-LEVEL INVOLVEMENT in the implementation and take active ownership of the process, rather than relying exclusively on your partner. As the old adage goes, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.
Guy Halfteck, a former commander in the Israeli navy who earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in game theory, had always been intrigued by what he saw as a core problem facing companies: how do you identify the best people to hire? He created Knack to help companies do just that.
Music Mastermind couldn’t exist without cloud computing. The company’s core product is Zya, a free music application and game that allows customers—mostly in the 13- to 24-year age range—to download clips from their favorite songs and add their own voices in what they call a “mash-up.”
In an age when Microsoft can pile up tens of billions in cash in a little more than two decades, one might well argue that firms should live fast and—having served their purpose—die young. But more and more theorists now argue that companies with staying power tend to be market-success stories, as well.
The Next Generation of manufacturing holds a great promise—and profit.
- Universities, federal labs and research institutes do not have adequate incentives to commercialize ideas.
- These “idea factories” have an incentive to charge large, up-front royalties rather than accept shares in successful start-ups that may not yield gains for several years.
- Ph.D. inventors inside these idea factories do not have enough personal connections with business-minded people with MBAs.
- Tech institutions do not know how to build teams with the right combination of skills to commercialize an idea.
- Would-be entrepreneurs emerging from a lab lack access to seed-stage capital to test their ideas in the market.
- Established businesses looking for new ideas may want to strike quick deals that secure control of a technology.
- Alter federal funding methods to encourage not just basic research but also encourage commercialization efforts. Allocate funding, for example, to technology-transfer offices, including the writing of patents.
- Persuade idea factory leaders that they will achieve greater, long-term financial gains by making it easier and cheaper for technologies to be spun out. No longer require tech-transfer offices to fund their own operations from licensing fees.
- Create social-networking events where technologists meet with potential CEOs, as well as marketers, financial mavens and manufacturing experts. Break down rigid, vertical siloes in universities between engineering and business schools.
- Create more incubators just outside the idea factory’s walls to serve as crossroads for different types of talent.
- Encourage early-stage investors and venture capitalists to go to events inside technology institutions to meet people with the best ideas.
- Business leaders must recognize that successful technol- ogy transfer requires more than just licensing a patent.