Challenges and issues in technology upgrading from the corporate perspective has always been predominant and will continue to exist for many years to come. The challenges pertain to the five Ms: markets, men, machines, materials, and methods. For markets, there are problems of size (or the lack of) and the increasingly shortened life cycles. For men, there is a need to raise skills level and competencies, have suitable trainers, provide budgets and resources, and be able to retain the workforce in the industry. For machines, there are issues such as the high cost of capital, expensive testing equipment, rapid technology changes, restrictions imposed on the export of high-tech machinery, and long procurement times. For materials, there are limitations on the supply of specialized materials, difficulty in obtaining supplies in small quantities, high cost, and uncertain quality. For methods, the challenges are in the use of forecasting techniques and scenario analysis to assess market demands, emerging technologies , and product trends, and the receptivity of the workforce and companies to technology transfer and certification.
Precision engineering industry has evolved in order to support this everlasting demand of technology up-gradation. There is a progressive trend for product manufacturers to outsource more of their operations so that they can concentrate on their core strengths of design and development. This provides excellent opportunities for the more enterprising precision engineering companies to move up the value chain. A business model that is becoming increasingly common is one in which the product manufacturer nurtures of pool of supporting companies to form a manufacturing ecosystem. There are a number of important considerations for PE companies to adapt to such a symbiotic relationship.
In case studies of two precision engineering companies that have successfully leveraged investments in technologies and systems to grow into global players, it was analyzed that the companies have carefully balanced market needs with technology acquisition. Industry experts have provided insight into how the machine tool, tooling, and automotive parts industries underwent successful transitions from initial development through the growth period and finally entered the mature phase of mass production. From relatively modest beginnings, these three industries now command a significant share of the domestic and export markets. The precision machine tools and precision engineering have been identified as key industries, together with intelligent robots, flat-panel manufacturing equipment, and industrial machinery. Greater investments have to be made in human resources, R&D, innovation, logistics networks, and the living environment to create a steeper “smile curve” and ensure future prosperity.
However, if the management of sales channels is comparatively weak, priority should be given to the establishment of a global marketing strategy and there should be greater use of ecommerce as a means to facilitate the upgrading of enterprises. It has become evident that the factors that influence technological competitiveness are innovative products and processes, high quality, environmental awareness, product life cycle support, adaptability to change, error-free engineering, and manufacturing knowledge management. There has been a significant influence of IT systems on manufacturing from the 1970s to date with respect to themes, actors, and methods and tools. To meet the current challenges, we need strong leadership in decision making, giving priority to process innovation, and digitizing competitive knowledge. The emerging technologies that will be significant are life sciences, information and communications technologies , environmental technology , and nanotechnology. Manufacturing technology , infrastructural technology , and energy are important enablers.