The tumultuous 2020s did not begin as we had hoped. COVID-19’s roaring impact is still affecting every aspect of our lives, and the manufacturing industry is not immune.
Manufacturers are constantly striving to overcome obstacles, improve processes, and find cost-cutting opportunities. Technology is also rapidly evolving, and businesses now have more opportunities than ever before to adjust their business models, improve operations, and complete tasks faster and better.
We will be able to observe the industry working towards sustainability, overall automation of manufacturing processes, and improving their production strategies in 2022.
Cloud computing, robotic process automation, low-code development, and other technologies will be at the heart of the current digital evolution, allowing manufacturers to experiment with new solutions in an infinite number of ways.
But, in these difficult times, how can these exciting trends translate into improved output? Let’s look at six of them and see how they can help the manufacturing industry.
1. MANUFACTURING INFLUENCED BY CUSTOMERS NEEDS
Today’s customers expect transparency both in the delivery process and personalization of products. They expect companies to hear out their needs and deliver the best solutions in the quickest ways possible. This entails a high level of agility and flexibility, which traditional business models cannot provide.
To anticipate the needs of those using their products, consumer-driven manufacturing companies are relying on contemporary technologies like data analytics or IoT (Internet of Things).
By implementing strategies like digital quality control, asset location monitoring, and automatic material replenishment, they are able to increase operational efficiency and more quickly deliver products to consumers.
2. FOCUSING ON SUSTAINABILITY
The traditional “take-make-waste” model of manufacturing has made serious impacts on the environment, leading to creating one-third of global greenhouse emissions. In order to combat this issue, companies are implementing sustainable economic models that optimize efficiency at every production stage, as well as transforming paper and in-person-based processes into digital ones.
The circular economy methods implement machine learning in order to automate processes, streamline operations, and increase efficiency. Recycling, refurbishing, and remanufacturing processes are used at every stage of production, leading to reducing waste and costs, as well as lowering a company’s carbon footprint.
With the digitalization of processes, companies gain real-time insights which help them in quick decision-making that keeps them on top of sustainability goals.
3. SMART FACTORIES
Shifting from sporadic or ad hoc use of smart equipment to fully-developed systems, manufacturers are taking advantage of data analytics and communication between machinery and central monitoring tools. The so-called smart factories, or digital factories, are using sensors that track the production process and inventory while providing real-time insight into maintenance needs.
A phenomenal example of utilizing cloud-enabled machines would be the Wizata industrial manufacturing software. Developed for increasing the quality, performance, and overall maintenance, it is harvesting data with the help of AI technologies and bringing smart solutions to challenges manufacturers are dealing with.
New machines come equipped with onboard sensors and monitoring tools, which lead to automatization of processes and a better understanding of the production obstacles.
4. PREDICTING AND SOLVING SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES
Dynamic fluctuation of supply, a global shortage of materials, high consumer demand, and inflation all have a great impact on the worldwide industry. Manufacturing firms are experiencing distribution delays in international supply chain networks that are slowing down deliveries.
These disruptions are costly – as per Drewry, moving a 40ft container is 170% higher than it was a year ago. But businesses are working on creating predictive models of supply chains and logistics. Manual tasks are being replaced with AI technologies, data analytics, and sensors that help managers understand patterns, predict consumer needs and create better ways of inventory management.
Having a better understanding of the overall product demand as well as the needs it has to meet, these predictive models are able to cut the tremendous costs that are hurting businesses all over the world.
Manufacturing companies are now investing more money in automation than ever before. Precisely put, hyperautomation is a business-driven approach that firms in order to identify and automate businesses and IT processes. It involves the use of several technologies, such as:
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Machine learning
- Robotic process automation (RPA)
- Integration platform as a service (iPaaS)
- Business process management (BPM) and intelligent business process management suites (iBPMS)
This trend is particularly helpful for manufacturing, engineering, and IT management. As post-pandemic border closures and travel restrictions took place, labor has been very limited in the agricultural industry. Therefore, companies are turning to automation and robotics to handle tasks like weeding, seeding, and harvesting.
6. EMPLOYEE RETENTION AND BRIDGING THE SKILLS GAP
Because of the reality of the pandemic, as well as existing production trends, businesses must be more efficient and agile than ever in overcoming labor shortages. Manufacturers are losing money if they are unable to increase capacity and meet the rising demand for industrial products.
This necessitates a thorough examination of all processes with the goal of identifying ways to improve efficiency and support the workforce, while also bridging the skills gap and providing state-of-art technical training to meet today’s demands.
Employee retention is critical in frontline industries such as manufacturing to meet output demands. But how to empower it?
Some of the most efficient practices companies implement are:
- Employee values, mission, and purpose alignment
- Team collaboration and engagement
- Giving recognition and listening
- Regular feedback from both sides
- Flexible work schedules and workplaces
- Available training and development opportunities
It is difficult to predict which trends will prove most effective in 2022, given the complexity of automating numerous processes, anticipating difficult situations, and adhering to sound business practices.
Post-pandemic conditions are still in effect, the world is undergoing major changes, and industries are obligated to act ethically in the face of all challenges.
However, no significant changes occurred overnight. But, looking at the direction in which the manufacturing industry is heading, it is possible to be optimistic.
The increasing use of modern technologies, but also the concurrent improvement of human efforts and skills, ushers us into the era of traditional practice transformation.
Rick Seidl is a digital marketing specialist with a bachelor’s degree in Digital Media and
Communications, based in Portland, Oregon. With a burning passion for digital marketing, social media, small business development, and establishing its presence in a digital world, he is currently quenching his thirst through writing about digital marketing and business strategies for Find Digital Agency.