A January ritual for the high-tech industry is the Consumer Technology Association’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. It’s where nearly every company in the consumer sector debuts its latest wares, from the latest TVs to wireless headphones and AR/VR hardware for gamers, to the latest smart home providers. They all trek to Sin City to show how their company is pushing the tech envelope. Many manufacturers pay little attention to CES since it is, after all, a consumer electronics event. If your company is stamping out metal parts for file cabinets, mixing up adhesives used to bond materials in the construction industry, or a state or local agency doing road maintenance, you might think CES isn’t relevant to you; you are wrong.
At the most fundamental level, industrial tech does have a footprint at CES. Robotics companies, 3D printing firms, industrial drone makers, and control system tech vendors all used CES 2019 to showcase their cutting edge tech. Even industrial stalwarts like John Deere used CES to demonstrate their smart products. Startups also went to CES to introduce new smart devices for small-scale manufacturers.
Consider this … most grocery chains, including warehouse giant Costco, incorporate manufacturing into their business model. From dairies to bakeries these retailers have in-store manufacturing capabilities. At this year’s CES, Washington-based Wilson Baking introduced the BreadBot, a true smart device capable of producing up to 225 loaves a day in-store, potentially altering the wholesale and contract baking market. Any wholesale bakery that skipped CES had better be paying attention since it’s possible (but obviously not a guarantee) that a disruptor just entered the market.
Since the CES has evolved to more than just a consumer-focused event, there’s an argument to be made that attending is probably valuable. However, there’s one more thing to consider. It’s not just “probably valuable,” it’s imperative ― by 2025, 75% of the workforce is expected to be millennials or younger. The labor pool that companies will draw on and need to entice don’t just eat and breathe technology; they adopt ever-evolving tech incredibly fast. More importantly, widely available research shows that this new generation workforce considers technology in the workplace a key decision criterion when evaluating opportunities. A significant portion of them even say they would leave a job if the employer doesn't keep pace with technology.
From the front office to the back office, factory floor or in the field, next-gen workers want the technology they use in their personal lives to be just as available in the workplace. Make no mistake ― it doesn’t matter if you’re a decision maker with a manufacturing firm in a growth phase, a proprietor trying to grow your company, or even if you just need an exit strategy, if you wait until technology is so mainstream that it’s your only choice, you likely have unwittingly handicapped your business. Smart manufacturers will mark their calendars for the week of January 7, 2020 to be in Las Vegas for CES 2020, or at least set aside time each day that week to check out the news coming from the show.