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Three Investment Areas to Watch As U.S. Tech Leaders Address Demand Spikes

As manufacturers and supply chains faced production halts and constraints for the last year, Apple is now taking the initiative to innovate U.S. manufacturing practices by investing in communities across the country. By building out more capabilities such as 5G, silicon engineering, and AI/ML, Apple is just one leader among many major tech players who will affect how the U.S. successfully navigates current tech industry shortages—from semiconductors to expert workers. 

This comes at a time when President Biden implemented a mandate to have manufacturers “buy American” at the start of his presidential term. Expect a period of tech industry nationalism to a boon in the next several years. 

As this develops, here are three key investment areas that Apple and others across the technology development and manufacturing industry need to focus on in order to succeed in ramping up production efforts to meet increasing demand.

Investment Area 1: Build a Specialized Workforce

The shortage of homegrown tech talent is one of the biggest innovation and growth obstacles in the U.S. In 2019, a PWC survey found that 79% of tech CEOs expressed concerns over the lack of talent available for digital roles, up from around 50% at the start of the decade. The pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, with the need for more product output growing in tandem with the shortage of workers. 

Tech companies across industries need to focus on building a sustainable and educated domestic workforce. Companies like Apple and Google are starting to make headway by looking to lower-tier cities in North Carolina, Mississippi, and other areas outside Silicon Valley and offering job opportunities in areas with more affordable cost of living. 

Tech companies should also focus on evaluating opportunities to upskill their workforce through incentivizing education and bringing more education resources in-house to better compete with international tech players. Educational opportunities are already a major barrier to workplace diversity. Offering benefits that give new talent the opportunity to learn more on the job and stay out of debt can help encourage the next generation of tech workers to stay motivated in tech careers while widening the talent pipeline. 

Investment Area 2-Leverage More Efficient Data Management Practices

Products are growing increasingly complex, and manufacturers are struggling to keep up. Over the last five years, 92% of manufacturers surveyed said that their products have become more complex. This complexity isn’t confined to the software and circuitry that make up the IoT; even purely mechanical designs have become more sophisticated. However, systems have not kept pace with growing complexity in the tech itself: the majority of companies still use outdated, linear systems and develop procedures to address multidimensional product and tech needs. 

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Agility has traditionally been central to growth on the software development level, but tech companies should not be afraid to apply agile thinking at the hardware level as well.  When applied to manufacturing, processes can cope better with complexity, shorten development lifecycles, and meet accelerating customer demands.

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Manufacturers should turn to the cloud to leverage its potential to break down silos and democratize access to information across a large organization—even in organizations where continents separate the product developers and manufacturing facilities. Using the cloud adds an analytics layer onto any dataset or system, which also creates a benefit for marketing professionals – having more direct and clear access to product innovation data, insights from which adds fuel the product marketing engine. Technology developers and manufacturers can’t overcome the tech shortage if they’re not prioritizing finding ways to simplify the complexities of what they’re making, nor can they create efficiencies at scale. 

Investment Area  3-Invest in Parallel Software

The complexity and expense of bringing a product to market can be overwhelming, making meeting deadlines extremely difficult. Many people and processes are needed, particularly during review rounds. Changes in the process might have an impact on the manufacturing phases, potentially costing millions of dollars and resulting in missed market opportunities. In the current market, where demand greatly outpaces supply, these missed opportunities can be crippling not just to a single business but to an entire supply chain. 

Consider solutions that can help you increase your ability to evaluate inputs in real time and interact effectively with worldwide teams at various stages of production. By definition, parallel systems speed up the execution of a program by dividing the program into multiple fragments and processing these fragments simultaneously. These systems enable processors, technologists, manufacturers and developers to work on various stages of a project concurrently, rather than systematically. Companies that can integrate parallel systems and software at various parts of their development process can test segments of a project and create real-time feedback opportunities without holding up the process as teams around the country can work simultaneously. At the bottom line, companies that operate with parallel systems have successfully sped up their time to launch, lowered launch costs, and increased their sales margins significantly.  

Building a Brighter Future in Investment Area

It is not enough to identify or preach the need for new systems of change, leaders must adopt and embrace change and new tools wholeheartedly. Company culture and leadership must strive for and accept innovation to accommodate the changing world – this is one reason why future-forward companies like Apple have seen such success.

 

Aside from systemic change at the internal level within tech companies, there is much work to be done on the advocacy and legislative level, for those that want to spur change from the outside. The U.S. government plays a key role in creating a business environment where companies can scale up their home-grown workforce affordably and have access to the right resources, from properly educated workers and equipment to space upon which to build offices and manufacturing sites. It will be important to watch how the Biden administration seeks to support the tech industry in these efforts, but creating change starts with how leaders of our industry step up to help find solutions in collaboration with lawmakers. 

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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