Despite a disruptive year and a half, the manufacturing industry is getting back on track. According to recent data, multiple manufacturing verticals now rank among the top 10 fastest-growing markets in the world through 2022.
The challenge is making sure your business is equipped to handle current demands and capture emerging potential. Here’s a look at five manufacturing technology trends to watch this year — and how firms can stay ahead of the curve.
Trend 1: Keeping Staff Safe
With return-to-work plans still in development, it’s critical for firms to address staff safety. Already a priority before the pandemic, keeping personnel safe is now paramount for continued operations. As the recent “Great Resignation” has made clear, employees are now willing to walk away from jobs that make them feel unhappy, unfulfilled or unsafe. With more than 115,000 nonfatal injuries in 2019 alone, manufacturing remains one of the top industries for potential safety issues.
From a technology perspective, this means the increasing use of automated production line tools capable of handling potentially dangerous work and real-time communications equipment that helps ensure continuous contact in case of emergency. It also requires robust IT support to see that these services and solutions are available on demand.
Trend 2: Predicting Operational Issues
Downtime is costly and commonplace for manufacturing firms. Research data shows that 82% of companies have experienced downtime over the last three years, with costs per hour reaching $260,000.
The result is an ongoing effort to move predictive maintenance solutions capable of anticipating problems. For example, intelligent sensors installed in high-volume production line machines can now be used to detect wear and tear on specific components, in turn, allowing companies to proactively repair or replace parts before more significant downtime occurs. In practice, this prediction requires companies to bridge the gap between new technologies and existing IT solutions to provide a comprehensive view of operations.
Trend 3: Keeping It All Connected
While automation underpinned the uptake of Industry 3.0 initiatives, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is driving the connected future of Industry 4.0, which aims to create connected wholes rather than disparate moving parts across manufacturing ecosystems.
Achieving this goal requires more than smart devices and IIoT sensors. Companies must now assure that devices, sensors and software are capable of connecting anytime, anywhere, to provide a holistic view of what’s happening, why and how organizations can address issues in real time.
As a result, organizations now benefit from in-depth IT and network analysis to help pinpoint potential problem areas, paired with expert assessment to determine where IT spending will deliver maximum results with minimum disruption.
Trend 4: Increasing Overall Visibility
Next on our list of the latest trends in manufacturing technology? Solutions capable of increasing total visibility on production floors and in corporate offices, but that also make it possible to see what’s happening across supply chains at large.
Here’s why: If the last year has made one thing clear, it’s that everything is subject to change. Historically stable supply chains suddenly became volatile, while shipping and logistics saw costs increase dramatically. Overnight, companies found themselves facing a new manufacturing reality that looked nothing like what they were familiar with — even as customers came to expect increasing precision in production timelines, logistics and delivery accuracy.
As a result, cloud solutions have become must-haves for manufacturing firms. Flexible, multi-cloud frameworks are now critical so that businesses are prepared to respond no matter what comes their way. However, in an industry traditionally focused in-house, crafting cloud frameworks may not come naturally. Here, knowledgeable third-party providers can help streamline this transition.
Trend 5: Making the Most of Mobile
Mobile has come to manufacturing. Staff and C-suite executives now expect the ability to access key data anywhere, anytime to pinpoint production problems, check output levels or examine operational trends. While it’s possible to purchase off-the-shelf solutions that offer some mobile benefits, the complex and customized nature of manufacturing firms means that purpose-built, custom applications are often more effective at scale — especially as enterprises add new staff and services.
Put simply, mobile apps are now table stakes for effective manufacturing management. While it’s possible to design and develop these apps in-house, employees often have their hands full keeping up with technology changes at scale. It’s worth partnering with app development firms that combine manufacturing industry experience with in-depth IT expertise to design apps capable of growing alongside operational needs.
Maximize Manufacturing Impact With MXOtech
When it comes to IT solutions for manufacturing, MXOtech has you covered. Our teams can help find the best-fit combination of services for your business so you’re not simply following the pack, but staying ahead of the curve when it comes to emerging industry trends.