Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow



tomorrow-sign.jpgSituational awareness is a crucial element for first responders, especially when arriving on scene. The ability to make a quick and accurate threat assessment can be the difference between successful mitigation and resolution or potential escalation. The level of complication grows based on the number of agencies responding to the emergency.  This is especially pertinent now, as professionals around the world work to respond to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

In the same way, businesses need good situational awareness of the trends and technologies that might disrupt their industry, both for their own decision-making and the decision-making of other industry players. Technological advancements are reported almost daily in news outlets and blogs or presented at trade shows. The Consumer Electronics Show, which was held in Las Vegas earlier this year, introduced more than 20,000 new products and services. Many of these new products and services will change the way companies, consumers and even machines communicate with each other.  

While it is easy to target technology, such as automation and Industry 4.0, as an area that can influence or even change the way things are made, it is only one category of potential disruption. Other factors that could require a shift in strategy or product performance include (but are not limited to):

  • Changes in consumer behaviors
  • Increased regulatory activity
  • Intensified oversight by federal agencies such as OSHA or the EPA
  • Modified trade agreements

For many manufacturers, especially small and mid-sized manufacturers, it can be difficult to maintain a forward-thinking outlook. Most of the time, the day-to-day fires are all-consuming. When dealing with daily disruptions on a small scale, the satisfaction of maintaining the status quo and achieving performance targets is the end goal. There’s very little energy left over to keep up with changing trend data.

From the past 60 days alone, below are several new product and industry announcements manufacturers might have missed:

  • The growing demand from consumers to limit plastic waste has been heard by some large companies, like Colgate. In response, Colgate has finally launched its recyclable toothpaste tube, which has been five years in development. Its parent company, Colgate-Palmolive, is pledging to use 100% recyclable packaging on all its products by 2025. It is even sharing the intellectual property of how these tubes are made to help increase adoption among other toothpaste brands. This is noteworthy for packaging companies and any direct-to-consumer product manufacturer, as well as end-of-life recycling centers.
  • OSHA released new penalty increases for violations in keeping with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Act Improvements Act of 2015, which requires OSHA to adjust its maximum monetary penalty levels to account for inflation no later than January 15 every year.
  • The EPA is moving closer to imposing stricter regulations of ethylene oxide (EtO) sterilization emissions. Of the EtO facilities affected by the new regulations, many are owned by small businesses. The cost of compliance could be a challenge. This is an ongoing debate that resulted in several plant shutdowns across the nation. More than 25 billion medical devices are sterilized using EtO annually, and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that further restrictions may lead to a medical device shortage.  
  • The U.S. and China signed an eight-part trade agreement that serves as a temporary cease-fire in the trade war and leaves U.S. tariffs in place on approximately $370 billion in Chinese goods, or about 75% of Chinese imports to the U.S. It also allows for possible tariff reductions that might be negotiated later. In the agreement, China agreed to increase its U.S. imports by almost $200 billion over the next two years. The market is still uncertain about the implications of this new agreement.

Much has been said about the transition of a new decade and 2020 vision. Hindsight will always reveal what should have been priorities but won’t do much to help navigate the future. Businesses need to understand their existing processes and challenges, while keeping an eye on the winds of change.

The Center seeks to help companies address both needs with our products and services:

  • Our Operational Excellence experts specialize in applying lean, quality, costing and six sigma services to business processes to help eliminate the daily fires
  • Our Advanced Technology and Cybersecurity experts help connect businesses to cost effective, scalable Industry 4.0 technologies to improve and protect business processes
  • Our Growth and Research Services teams specialize in thinking about all the tomorrows and how to position companies for long-term, strategic success
  • Our Leadership Services team educates and prepares the workforce to address all the challenges both in the day-to-day, and all the tomorrows

Like Fleetwood Mac suggests, businesses should not stop thinking about tomorrow, for it will soon be here. However, there is no guarantee that tomorrow will be better, only different. Increase the odds of tomorrow’s success and raise your situational awareness quotient today.

Learn more about The Center’s services here or contact to discuss the best course of action for your business.


McCarter_R-web.jpgRebekah McCarter, Lead Supplier Scout
Having spent more than 20 years with the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, Rebekah views her fundamental responsibility as head cheerleader and advocate on behalf of Michigan’s manufacturing community. Officially, Rebekah is the Lead Supplier Scout for Michigan, part of a national program that effectively identifies domestic suppliers that meet the specifications of OEMs and other U.S. manufacturers, with a special focus on connecting Michigan companies with other Michigan companies. If you are looking to mitigate risk in your supply chain, transition to more local sourcing of raw materials or augment your minority suppliers, The Center can help. 

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Data & Trends, growth