2015 Manufacturing Trends: Why the Future is Now

While 2014 was no slouchy year for manufacturing, 2015 stands to be counted among the most defining periods in manufacturing’s history.

It’s not so much that we’re on the brink of game-changing breakthroughs this very moment, but more that the innovations that have been taking shape are becoming far more than demonstrations performed at trade show booths.

They are becoming accessible.

For many manufacturers this means that the goal related to 2015 trends is not so much to figure out what the future will hold (because we already see it fairly clearly), but rather, how to implement the future wisely.

Of course, when viewed from the perspective of manufacturing’s long-held mantra, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” it’s not difficult to see just how challenging making even small shifts can be – not to mention, radical ones.

Not long ago, we created a worksheet called the Move Toward the Future of Manufacturing Readiness Checklist. This resource is what 2015 is all about in a nutshell. Specifically:

Making sure your company will be ready to capitalize on the monumental change that is afoot in manufacturing.

Here are four trends that reveal what the future holds and our thoughts on how to prepare for it:

The race to capture value is increasing capital investments.

Manufacturers are seeking to increase their value to the customer in myriad ways, including Original Design Manufacturing (ODM), increased speed to market and wide-ranging innovation.

Doing this requires new investments in technology, equipment and plant improvements overall.

So, where should manufacturers invest when resources are limited and what planning needs to go into making that decision?

In our article, Closing Effectiveness Gaps in Capital Planning, we described the need to consistently revisit the big picture in determining the answer to this question.

Manufacturers that fail to look far enough down the road are forced to make improvements in response to the problem of the day, leaving little room in the budget for seizing the opportunities in support of a more successful tomorrow.  

SMAC is increasing the rate of change.

Perhaps nothing has captured the collective imagination of technology professionals in recent times as much as connectivity.

But the computer geeks are not the only ones talking about it.

In fact, connectivity has been one of the driving forces behind the comeback of manufacturing in the U.S. Yet, the profound impact of the SMAC Stack (the combination of the key connectivity tools of social media, mobile, analytics or big data and cloud) on the conservative psyche of manufacturing cannot be understated.

Fortunately, SMAC is such a force for operating and financial efficiencies, and so tied to important trends in consumerism, that manufacturers are not only ready to embrace these technologies, but need to do so in a well-thought out, but rapid manner.

For a good primer on what it takes to successfully adopt these new technologies, read our article on smart manufacturing, Preparing for the Future: Are You Ready for the Next Step?

Robots as a Service is cutting costs.

While decreasing equipment cots, faster runtimes and easier programming and maintenance caused a heyday in robotics several years ago, growth determinedly slowed in the last couple of years.

However, experts are expecting 2015 to be a turnaround year with growth in robotics achieving solid mid double digits – but why?

Fueling robotics’ growth is the concept of robotics as a service (RaaS).

Like Software as a Service, RaaS enables manufacturers to purchase only the guaranteed output and/or results, rather than the expensive equipment itself.

Not only does this decrease the manufacturer’s risk, but it also increases its rate of improvement as each robot is engineered to learn from its own experience, as well as the experience of every other robot performing the same task and the from the input of third-party AI providers who are always working to perfect the algorithm required for the task.

Click here for DataFox’s look at what’s happening in the smart robots arena, including a brief cost analysis example and an overview of forerunner companies and what they are creating.

You can also click on the following links to see examples of robots in action in the packaging industry:

5 Trend-Setting Robots in Action at Pack Expo

Robots for Packaging Exhibit Performance Enhancements

IoT and STEM are freeing up brainpower.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is allowing manufacturers to automate tasks that previously required significant human resources to manage.

But doing this leads to a problematic question:

Is the workforce capable of managing highly technical systems? After all, we in industry have been discussing the skills gap for some time.

Thanks to educational efforts like STEM (emphasizing science, technology, engineering and mathematics in order to “improve the technological competence of the overall U.S. population”), we’ve actually come a long way in addressing this challenge.

Not only are the generations entering the workforce skilled in dealing with smart technologies, but also they’re highly interested in applying their brainpower to activities like research and development – activities that are ultimately more lucrative for manufacturers.

Are You Ready to Fast Forward to the Future?

Often, manufacturing trends consist of a list of economic predictions that, while well researched, are not guaranteed to come to fruition.

But this year is different.

 

Advancements like those outlined above and more are tangibly re-shaping industry and the conservative “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mindset of manufacturers is shifting as well. In fact, more and more manufacturing companies are becoming downright proactive.

 

The challenge is determining where you need to put your attention to move forward under the constraints of limited resources and with the always-present need to minimize risk.

 

This is, of course, where firms like EFI Group can be invaluable, bringing an objective, results-focused perspective to designing your next steps.

 

To that end, we invite you to tap into our inside industry experience, as well as benefit from the insights we’ve gained from working in sectors outside your own, by scheduling a time to discuss your plans to keep up with the pace of change. 

To schedule a conversation with EFI Group, email Jim Solich at js*****@ef*********.com

 

 

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