Midsize business

Moore’s law and the shrinking product life cycle

Believe it or not, there was a time when could you make a sandwich in the time it took to open a spreadsheet.

Connecting to the Internet with a dial-up modem gave you the chance to shower and preen before a single web page downloaded.

Today those microchips in your iPhone or laptop that propel processing speed and determine wait times have gotten smaller and more powerful since the days when minutes browsing the web seemed like hours.

But all good things eventually come to an end, and that’s how it goes according to Moore’s Law.

It’s mostly IT professionals who get all wrapped up in computer performance, but manufacturers also have a vested interest in how fast things get done.

Shaving minutes or hours off routine tasks in a manufacturing business helps optimize workflow and cut labor costs, but how much further can you push the envelope? Not much when it comes to processors, but there are some other relevant technological advances that may speed up your business results.

What is Moore’s law?

More than five decades ago, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore noted that transistors used to power processing speed were getting so small that every year twice as many could fit onto a microchip. In 1975, Moore’s Law was tweaked to reflect that speed would double every two years in the future.

If you recall buying a laptop or desktop in the past 20 years or so, they did their job well but in all likelihood, there was a sleeker, faster model on the market by the time you busted the new machine out of the bubble wrap.

Tech analysts have observed that the past few years have seen a leveling-off in processing speed, and new ways to improve the pace are constantly researched by engineers. While this phenomenon mostly affects your mobile phone or iPad, manufacturing businesses shouldn’t have any concerns with productivity that hinges on automation along factory assembly lines.

As a matter of fact, while Moore’s Law comes to a halt , an interesting and not wholly unrelated trend is taking shape with the product life cycle. New innovations in appliances, lighting, and heating and cooling networks for homes and buildings have evolved due to the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT). Novel manufacturing capabilities that involve placing smart technology in ordinary items have common household items and systems completing some impressive tasks.

How IoT shrinks the product lifecycle

Consider that black or almond-colored refrigerator you owned 20 years ago. It probably cost you about $1,000 and all it really did was keep your food cold or frozen, and maybe launch a few ice cubes in your glass.

As time passed, General Electric built a stainless steel fridge in 2012 that could detect the size of a container beneath its water dispenser and fill that baby to the brim without you having to intervene. Now, the industrial innovators and entrepreneurs of the world have come together to explore how software, artificial intelligence, and machine learning can optimize workflows and cut costs in operations.

Who’d have ever thought that a refrigerator could assist you with grocery shopping? But that’s just what a Samsung model does by snapping pictures of your milk jug each time you close the door. An indicator lets you know you’re running low, and the fridge will even order you more dairy product if your mobile operating system integrates with an app that triggers online grocery and delivery services.

What does this mean for manufacturers? To start, the product life cycle is shrinking even as the rate of speed in computing doesn’t increase as frequently as it once did. Consumers once thought that a good appliance should last 10-15 years, and now tech-savvy consumers are finding two- or three-year-old appliances obsolete.

The second consideration is that while titanic global manufacturing companies can risk huge investments in new technology, how can small- and medium-sized manufacturers afford to leverage innovation that will inevitably trickle down to their bottom lines?

All for one and one for all

Ideas sit at the forefront of any growing business. Leaders focus on hiring the best designers and engineers who can conceive and build products that give their organization an edge in cost and competitiveness. Forward-thinking businesses have come to realize inclusiveness in the workplace spawns innovation and process improvement, which starts in the executive boardroom and extends right on down to the shop floor.

Pioneers of change for the better, or the Kaizen principle in manufacturing, Toyota Motor Company installed a rope or andon cord that workers could pull if a bottleneck or defect was noticed at any assembly line workstation. At that point, management and engineers could swoop in and evaluate the problem, and correct it on the fly or opt to shut down production so a wholesale fix could be implemented.

The vaunted automaker has since scrapped the cords for simple yellow push-buttons, and that advance shows how big business never stops thinking about positive change. Is your business capable of the same practice?

At its most basic level, continuous improvement banks on the idea that each employee of the business, from entry- to C-level, has a duty to ensure quality in and expel waste from the manufacturing process. For a first pass, it wouldn’t be cost-consuming or disruptive to gather representatives from each department in one room and figure out how your own operations can benefit from solid recommendations.

Software as a solution

You’re not Google, which has enrolled about 25 percent of its 72,000 full-time employees in machine learning crash courses. But, you can begin a search for solutions to keep all your staff on the same page.

For small- to medium-sized manufacturing businesses, small steps begin a journey toward meaningful and measurable progress in inventory management and supply chain logistics. Automating accounting functions is a good place to start and then you can branch out from there. You can track payables, receivables, bank transactions, generate detailed reports, and gradually introduce specialized manufacturing modules that affordably fuel growth.

Southern Services & Equipment, Inc. (SSE) bounced back from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005 to quadruple sales— from $3 million to $12 million— in three  years. Equipped with some trusted accounting software and brandishing new shop floor technology, SSE acquired a PythonX robotic structural plasma cutting machine, the first of it is kind in Southeastern Louisiana. The innovative machine helped expand the company’s capacity to take on more production jobs, and top-line numbers exploded as a result.

Owner Mindy Nunez Airhart attributed the growth to solid advice from some industry analysts and a further unlocking of her enterprise software’s job-costing capabilities. She admitted that her husband (and business partner) excelled at many facets of the business but financials weren’t one of them. Rather than taking on more complexity, Airhart Nunez stuck with the applications that the business used in the back office for more than two decades and leveraged her expertise along the assembly line.

A final observation

Bigger corporations have the means to implement massive IT projects that theoretically should and often do cut costs and boost profits. However, don’t let size dissuade your manufacturing business from making reasonable investments in just-in-time manufacturing processes that order and deliver stock or material when and where needed.

study conducted by academics at Case Western Reserve University revealed some notable correlations between technology and small business success. First, innovation comes in stages. Small businesses progress from basic stand-alone software modules to more specialized applications that easily integrate with accounting-first solutions.

Secondly, the benefits of adopting new platforms aren’t realized immediately but accumulate throughout months and years of learning and using.

Finally, at once implementing too many apps lessens the overall positive impact of cutting-edge software systems. So walk before you run on the path to more efficient operations, plumper margins, and an engaged workforce whose vision and actions align with your own.

Mail icon
Get the latest to your inbox
No Thanks

Get the latest to your inbox

Relevant resources to help start, run, and grow your business.

By clicking “Submit,” you agree to permit Intuit to contact you regarding QuickBooks and have read and acknowledge our Privacy Statement.

Thanks for subscribing.

Fresh business resources are headed your way!

Looking for something else?


From big jobs to small tasks, we've got your business covered.

Firm of the Future

Topical articles and news from top pros and Intuit product experts.

QuickBooks Support

Get help with QuickBooks. Find articles, video tutorials, and more.