Where and how manufacturers make products for Americans will change in 2017. Current industrial manufacturing trends show the new administration is pushing for reshoring among the nation’s biggest manufacturers, and new technologies are revolutionizing how companies respond to growing skepticism and scrutiny by the public and government oversight as well.
Manufacturers must adapt to changing demands, or they will become nothing more than a statistic in history books. The solution to this problem lies in understanding the “First Five” core concepts and industrial manufacturing trends throughout 2017, and you need to think how they will impact the industry and your company in the coming year.
The “First Five” Industrial Manufacturing Trends of 2017
1. The Shop Floor Gets a Digital Makeover.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is no longer the newest kid on the block. It is simply the most consistent kid on the block in manufacturing. Nearly every new piece of equipment or technology is inherently imbued with data capture and processing capabilities. Machines are talking to one another. Even the printer on your desk can probably send an alert to your smartphone when ink runs low. This simple fact is revolutionizing factory floors.
A report by Synchrono identified how every new upgrade leads to greater use of the IIoT in manufacturing, reports Supply Chain 24/7. Obviously, manufacturers that have not upgraded systems in a while will be faced with added challenges in implementing digital processes, but making these changes today is essential to responding to changing consumer and business-to-business (B2B) demands tomorrow.
2. Collaboration Will Become Interchangeable With Visibility.
Collaboration encourages growth and modernization of the supply chain, and it has become synonymous with visibility. However, age-old means of collaborating, such as emails and faxes, are insufficient to sustain the industry in 2017. Manufacturers must look for new ways to improve collaboration.
For example, a company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems should be accessible from anywhere within the manufacturing enterprise. Logistics providers need to know when products will be available, and warehouses must send information back to the manufacturer to ensure supply and demand fluctuations are easily met. However, the limitations of company-specific ERP systems are starting to stifle manufacturing capacity, so manufacturers will need to look for new systems, including software-as-a-service (SaaS) offers to stay competitive, explains Mark Humphlett of Manufacturing and Business Technology magazine.
3. Big Data Accessibility Will Drive Innovation and Change.
Take a moment to think about Big Data. It is a combination of numbers, statistics, progress reports and real-time data. In its raw form, it is useless. You cannot realistically review every detail manually, so how Big Data is accessed and distributed will also change in 2017. Currently, many systems analyze Big Data and disseminate reports and insights into a sole system, but the demand for better collaboration requires a more cohesive, interchangeable system of accountability. This will lead to the creation of more metrics and business-intelligence tools to help improve manufacturing operations.
4. Actionable Metrics Will Enhance Operations, Reducing Costs.
The ability to access information and insights from Big Data naturally leads to actionable metrics. Metrics are like Big Data; they can appear useless. But, when applied appropriately, metrics become actionable. Key performance indicators can provide an overview of plant operations, and complexities within specific manufacturing process zones can be drilled down into.
This information is invaluable to managers, and it will become a hallmark of manufacturing throughout 2017. Managers will have the information they need at their fingertips, and when paired with the logistics trend of embracing transportation management systems (TMS), the possibilities for growth will increase.
5. Sustainable Manufacturing Will Become Essential.
Sustainable manufacturing is starting to replace fossil fuel-based manufacturing, reports James D. Sawyer of Advanced Manufacturing Media. Although not expressly stated, OPEC has plans to cut oil production to drive the cost of fuel up in 2017, but increases in domestic production, including offshore drilling rigs, will help alleviate rising fuel costs. Per the International Energy Agency (IEA), more renewable energy installations came online in 2015 and 2016 than fossil fuel-based installations. This includes the number of renewable installations, particularly wind farms, that were brought online in the U.S.
Domestic manufacturers are looking for sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels during this time as well, and even though the new administration may have some tough criticisms of renewable energy, the trend shows no signs of slowing. In addition, renewable, sustainable manufacturing operations have fewer overhead costs and gain favor with consumers, reports Inora Technologies. Ultimately, the sustainability push will be key to meeting market demand and fluctuations throughout 2017.
Putting the “First Five” Together.
The “First Five” industrial manufacturing trends are not necessarily something that has been discussed in mainstream media. But, that does not mean they lack importance. In many ways, these trends will define how manufacturers respond to changing attitudes throughout 2017 and the next four years. Ultimately, manufacturing is evolving in the wake of a new presidency to meet the demand of modernity.
This evolution will naturally lead to five more substantial industrial manufacturing trends. In part two of this series, we will dive further into the manufacturing discussion by looking at what technology trends will become key components in companies that survive the changing political and social climates.