10 Manufacturing Trends that Will Impact Your Future
Well, 2020 was a year like no other. But what’s coming in 2021 and beyond? While there is much uncertainty, there are trends we see emerging in the field of manufacturing. Being aware of these manufacturing trends and strategically considering how to leverage them to your advantage will be crucial to the success of your business.
It’s not all due to COVID, but there have certainly been drastic changes recently in the way most people buy and how businesses operate and interact with their customers.
As you consider your strategy for 2021 and onward, there are 10 manufacturing trends we think you should keep in mind:
In the past, manufacturers could afford to do things ‘the old way’ with limited technology. Now, with COVID-related disruptions, more employees working remotely, and customers staying home, technology is no longer optional. Technology such as 3D printing and AR (Augmented Reality) headsets, once considered fringe, have emerged as valuable tools for increasing productivity. This is especially true in remote situations (think touchless service options for field service and 3D printing for reducing tooling time and costs).
There were serious supply-chain disruptions in 2020. Manufacturers and suppliers are looking for ways to be more resilient going forward. A practical approach will include manufacturers pooling their data, businesses investing in logistics operation centers, and the emergence of supplier trust networks. The trend will be for customers and suppliers to connect through seamless networks.
One of the more noteworthy effects of the pandemic is the change in customers’ buying preferences. Customers have discovered how to buy online, and they like it. Digital enablement must be a top priority.
Manufacturers need to educate their customers on product acquisition costs, implementation, utilization, and post-sale requirements, all while maintaining positive customer experiences. It will be crucial to hire the right teams and secure the right technology, such as customer-friendly eCommerce platforms.
Manufacturers were already exploring B2B (Business to Business ) strategies. Now they must also concentrate on B2C (Business to Customer.) More and more, end customers want to do their own shopping. There is a potentially huge revenue stream, but it will require newer approaches to sales platforms, order fulfillment and tracking, secure payments, customer service management, and marketing and sales activity tracking.
Disaster recovery is great for the short term, but it has become evident that businesses today need to plan for long-term resilience. These strategies include being prepared to manage and run production remotely if necessary. Investments in new intelligent manufacturing equipment and networking technology may be called for.
Manufacturers lose time and money when equipment is down. Preventing breakdowns has to be part of your strategy. Tools that enable predictive analytics and regular maintenance have been proven to prevent breakdowns and extend machinery life by years. With predictive analytics, manufacturers can monitor performance and automate their data-collection processes. Understanding how systems work and when and why they fail will help you operate proactively.
While it has always been important to manufacturers, post-2020 workplace safety has taken on additional urgency. Every strategy for the future must include provisions for social distancing, sanitizing workspaces, monitoring access and employee interaction whether in the office, on the production floor, or in the field.
For years, manufacturers have moved their operations overseas to remain competitive. Recently, that trend has begun to change, and large U.S. manufacturers, concerned about quality and supply chain issues, are leading the way in bringing manufacturing – or at least some facets of it – back to the U.S.
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Inter-organizational data use
As IoT (Internet of Things) and predictive maintenance continues to trend, data has never been more critical. Manufacturers need to collect, analyze, and report on data from many sources. Making this information available to all teams will require cloud computing capabilities.
ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software has always been a cornerstone of manufacturing. But since COVID, the way manufacturers use their ERP has changed. The need to quickly respond and pivot requires an ERP with the agility to keep up with the pace of change. Manufacturers need ERP tools that will enable them to efficiently and cost-effectively build apps for specific processes or tasks in order to avoid costly and disruptive customizations.
Prepare now for your future
How can you leverage these manufacturing trends and prepare your business for the future? There’s a lot to consider, but nothing is out of reach with the right people and tools to support your efforts.