This post concludes our two part series on the “Changing Face of Manufacturing.” In this series, we first wrote about how manufacturers are now looking at total landed costs when deciding where they will place manufacturing facilities. Increasingly, those companies, who offshored to China and other countries in the 80s and 90s, are now taking a hard look at reshoring or bringing those facilities back to American shores.

However, as noted in a recent report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the reshoring of facilities, doesn’t necessarily mean new jobs. As we have said in the past, we think that is OK.

Today we will address these 5 sweeping manufacturing technology trends which look to disrupt and change how manufacturing companies execute current processes.

5 Sweeping Manufacturing Technology Trends to Change Paradigms Forever

Manufacturing technology is not what tit used to be a decade ago. Today’s increasingly automated and software driven industries have reduced human intervention to pressing only a few buttons in some cases. The application of advanced technologies in manufacturing such as nanotechnology, cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) are changing the face of manufacturing in ways unimaginable a few decades ago. In addition to cutting the costs, these technologies create speed, precision, efficiency and flexibility for manufacturing companies. Here is a look at some of the advanced technologies that are driving growth.

3D Printing

One of the biggest news in the manufacturing  technology sector in the last few years is the proliferation and application of 3D printing technology. It has caught the imagination of the general public and the manufacturing community like nothing since the invention of the personal computer and the internet. Within a few years, the technology has evolved so much that it is now possible to produce almost any component using metal, plastic, mixed materials and even human tissue. It has forced engineers and designers to think very differently when thinking about product development. As this more manufacturers adopt and use 3D printing technology, there is little doubt that 3D Printing will change the face of manufacturing forever.


manufacturing technology nanotechnologyNanotechnology is the technology of the future, but the first generation of the technology is already here. It involves the manipulation of matter on atomic, molecular and supramolecular scales; thus bringing with it super-precision manufacturing. Currently applied mostly in space technology and biotechnology, it is going to play an indispensable role in every manufacturing industry in the future. In many ways, it has already changed the world. Examples of application in nanotechnology include:

In the future, there will be nanobots (microscopic robots) that will carry drugs to specific tissues in our body.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a revolutionary manufacturing technology that allows electronic devices connected to each other, within the existing Internet infrastructure, to communicate with one another without human intervention. An IoT device connects to the internet and is capable of generating and receiving signals. As such, the use of this technology is going to have a profound impact on the manufacturing industry. IoT enables connected devices to “talk” to each other, sending and receiving critical notifications. An example of a critical notification is a defect or damaged ping. Once the device detects a failure, the IoT connected device sends a notification to another device or a user. This type of small, but critical, application of IoT in manufacturing results in reduced downtime, increased quality, reduced waste and less overall costs.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the practice of using a network of Internet-connected remote services along various points to store, manage, and process data. Many companies are already using cloud computing, although the manufacturing industry is still taking time to warm up to the technology due to connectivity and security concerns. Over time, to the present day, cloud computing grows more stable and reliable. Manufacturers are increasingly implementing cloud computing software in manufacturing plants spread out in various geographic areas in order to share data quickly and efficiently. In implementing cloud computing, manufacturers reduce costs, gain greater quality control, and increase the speed of production. In the future, it is feasible that all manufacturing facilities will have a connection to the cloud.

Big Data and Predictive Maintenance Technology

Manufacturing industries can significantly increase their efficiency and productivity with the technologies that allow them to collect, process and measure big data in real time. These technologies include electronic devices that connect factories through the internet and web pages that double as dashboards for controlling the processes. Predictive maintenance technology helps predict snags and defects and thus cuts downtime and costs. In the future, manufacturers will implement big data and predictive maintenance technologies in every area of manufacturing. IoT is a part of big data and predictive technology that manufacturers are already using with remarkable success.

Advanced technologies have been the driving force behind the growth of the manufacturing industries, and they will have a greater role to play in the industries of the future. As new technologies emerge, manufacturers will adopt them, or they will be forced to choose them to survive. On their part, the technologies will change the industries beyond recognition. For example, 3D printing is already changing the way many manufacturers design and manufacture their products.

What sweeping manufacturing technology trends are missing from this list that you would add? Let us know in the comments section below!

We just love infographics, and this one by Cisco created last year really spoke to us. We are a technology minded company in the way we manage transportation for our shippers. In fact, we built our web based TMS as web based since we first built it ourselves and have maintained since 1997. Technology is at the core of what we do. We believe, like IDC Insights predicted for 2014, that when shippers and manufacturers focus on properly executed implementation of technology which improves process, operations, and thus the bottom line, they stay focused, strategic, increase customer service levels and pass the competition by.

Today’s blog post focuses on how leaders at manufacturing companies can better understand how IT feels in their role with the business. It is clear, that whether it’s automation, robotics, improving the manufacturing process, or getting more efficient in the way you manage transportation, when IT and technology are a part of the conversation from the start, companies win. Below the post, you can see the full infographic.

How well are Manufacturing and it Leaders Collaborating?

Rapid shifts of applications to the cloud, overburdened networks, and uncertain application reliability are challenges that make cross-functional teamwork more critical than ever.

When functional departments remain in silos, it’s hard for people to work together to achieve shared company goals. Manufacturing and IT divisions — and it’s telling that we still call them “divisions” — often have an uneasy relationship. Now two studies update us on IT’s struggle to be part of strategic planning and manufacturing’s problems with IT application reliability and downtime.

Business Planning Without IT Involvement

IT leaders feel left out of business operations decisions and planning (almost like when logistics managers or transportation managers are left out of business decisions), according to the 2013 Cisco Global IT Impact Survey of IT professionals. There is no lack of communication — 89% of IT leaders meet with business leaders once a month or more. Yet, on average, 25% feel that, when it comes to planning future business initiatives, IT has low visibility in the organization.

In fact, 78% even say business leaders sometimes or always work around IT, rolling out applications on their own. Even when IT leaders are brought into applications planning and deployment, 38% say they are brought into the process late, 21% of them saying “the day before rollout.”

One effect of the planning gap is that business leaders may underestimate the readiness of network infrastructure to support new applications or to handle the rush to move them to the cloud. 37% of IT leaders believe their systems may not be able to support some planned business initiatives. A whopping 78% of IT leaders say that their networks are overburdened now, adversely impacting web, file service, and email performance. As well as having concerns about network performance, IT leaders are worried about ensuring data security and the availability and reliability of external systems.

Business leaders may not spend much time thinking about the network’s physical wires, switches, and device layers, but IT leaders do. Software network management systems for more flexible control — software defined networking (SDN) — are being touted as a solution to the need for reconfiguring physical connections when network usage is changed. Almost three out of four companies in the survey will deploy SDN in the next year. Business leaders are signing off on SDN because of promised benefits such as fast scalability, custom applications, and cost savings. We’ve all seen what can happen when IT’s Next Big Thing is hastily introduced: snarled processes and frustrated users. In order to implement SDN strategically, IT and business leaders will need to collaborate better than ever.

It’s pretty obvious that employees want to bring their personal mobile devices to work. That makes IT leaders nervous — 41% of them feel their companies have not thought through either the positive or the negative implications of this avalanche of change. The use of mobile devices raises a new crop of security issues. On top of the problems of ensuring the availability and reliability of network and cloud applications, deploying versions for new mobile applications makes things even more complicated.

The View from Manufacturing’s Side of the Wall

Most manufacturing managers say they are satisfied with manufacturing application performance, as reported in a Penton Research survey. Yet there is a difference between companies using IT applications in the virtual world — the cloud — than those staying in the old one. Of the 16% of respondents who do run systems in a virtualized environment, two out of three are extremely satisfied or satisfied (68% vs. 51%) with IT application availability and reliability. Only half of the 84% who haven’t advanced to the cloud say the same.

System downtime is a profit-killer. In the first four months of 2013, more than one in four respondents experienced manufacturing application downtime events. Manufacturing operations were hit with an average of seven downtime incidents in the past year from failures of IT application availability, at a cost of nearly $17,000 each time. Larger companies have been struck by more of them, and at a higher cost per incident.

More companies are implementing high availability manufacturing IT strategies or solutions. The one in three respondents that report they now have one are more likely to be extremely satisfied with application availability (17% say so) than those who don’t (5%). For most, a high availability strategy means some sort of backup method. At larger companies, those with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion, 26% use built-in high availability functions, 23% use fault tolerant servers, 16% use windows clustering and 9% use high availability software. But these numbers show that the methods being used are not yet producing highly satisfying system performance, and that the majority of companies have yet to come up with a high availability strategy at all.

Get “IT” Together

The relative performance advantage in companies with high availability strategies should be a lesson on the benefits of teamwork between manufacturing and IT managers. Where IT management is still excluded from business planning and operations, there is a lot of work to be done. In these companies, senior management may not be providing the best leadership in unifying their teams and developing a culture of collaboration. When they don’t bring the two together, leaders are sacrificing both operational performance and the long-term competitiveness of their companies.

Manufacturing Leaders & IT Study Infographic

manufacturing technology infographic

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