The rate of technological change is increasing so rapidly that metalcasting companies, and all industrial enterprises, can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines, thinking they can conduct business as usual. The Internet of Things is advancing in our direction and it is changing everything from the way you manufacture products to the way you collect data and share information with customers, vendors and others. If you are not ready to adapt and innovate, your very business survival may be in doubt as you struggle to keep up.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects or ‘things’ embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity to enable objects to exchange data with the production, operator and/or other connected devices. While it’s still a developing phenomenon, it is allowing manufacturers to identify, locate, and control objects remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit. Forecasts vary, but one outlook offers that by 2020, 50 billion objects — components, parts, devices — will be connected the Internet of Things.

Here are six things to address as you prepare for manufacturing’s future:

Leverage Emerging Technologies — The Internet of Things has value only if you know how to leverage emerging technologies like Big Data, mobility, and the Cloud. You can gain better control and more effectively manage your operations to produce faster results and develop new products more rapidly. With the Internet of Things, you can integrate into increasingly more sophisticated supply chains where participants network machinery, sensors and control systems together.

Demonstrate Your Commitment — Staying current with changing industry methods and advancements like the Internet of Things demonstrates your commitment to best practices and quality standards. It also helps you better meet your customer’s short- and longer range production and delivery requirements.

Prove Your Qualifications — Investing in the latest industry certifications, ISO and other business and technology protocols will demonstrate your commitment to best practices. You can’t meet customer expectations if you are not up on the latest qualifications for bidding projects. And, while you are focused on qualifiers for success, make sure your team knows what you expect from them in terms of excellent service and high quality results delivered on time.

Improve Quality Processes — With the advances in technology coming on stream today and in the near future, customers have an increasing expectation for data that proves quality. When it comes to quality, spend more time upfront with your customers to communicate your capabilities and to manage expectations. Help your customers understand your processes so they have realistic expectations for quality based on those processes and the data you collect from deploying the latest technology.

Aid Your Communications — Within your organization, build bridges through cross-discipline work teams and informal gatherings designed to bring your people together. Consider an occasional internal networking event so people can get to know each other better and more fully understand how the Internet of Things affects the data they work with every day. For customers, improved communication will mean sharing data generated by your manufacturing operations. This data allows everyone in the supply chain to tweak their product designs and processes for greater efficiencies and control.

Increase Business Profitability — Ask yourself what is important to your success. Figure out how to measure these indicators of successful company performance. It’s an old adage, but it’s as true today as it ever has been despite our world of change: you can manage what you can measure. What is changing is your access to data that was never available before. The other big change is the way supply chains integrate together and share data like never before. Be prepared for an increasingly more open world in which protecting your intellectual property will become increasingly more difficult and at the same time more important.

Preparing for the Internet of Things, as a way to continue to meet customer quality expectations and satisfying customer needs is one of the reasons we invite prospects and existing clients to visit the Littler Diecast operations. We want the wide world to meet our people and understand that we can meet their production requirements.

John D. Littler is the president of Littler Diecast Corp., Albany, IN, which specializes in machined aluminum alloy and high-strength ZA-12 and ZA-27 zinc diecasting.