Manufacturing Trends 2017: Moving from Innovation to Implementation

By EFI Group’s leadership team

Manufacturing as an industry is clearly in a period of innovation and change. But it has also been a period of confusion and uncertainty. Specifically, in terms of how to apply innovation and adapt to change in a way that results in real growth and tangible ROI.

Fortunately, there’s good news on the horizon.

By all accounts, 2017 is poised to be the year the trends that have been the center of the discussion at industry conferences make the important shift from concept to implementation – and, at the least, to becoming the norm in a wider range of sectors.

Here are just a few of the most interesting trends that are transforming the way manufacturers think and operate, as well as their ability to compete and grow:

Quick Demand & Delivery: Social media has created an environment where a product can become a superstar (and therefore in great demand) overnight. This, along with services like Amazon’s same-day delivery, can impact every aspect of the supply chain. Becoming more agile by seeking efficiency gains and rethinking operations and logistics overall will need to be a priority for manufacturers that wish to showcase their competitive edge when its time to bid on projects and submit proposals.

Sustainability is Here for Good: Millennials are demonstrating their commitment to green, sustainably produced products with their wallets. As this segment of the marketplace starts to represent an increasingly larger percentage of overall purchases, manufacturers that have not incorporated sustainable processes will be on the losing end. While we’ve discussed sustainability as an emerging trend many times in the past (including how it relates to specific industries such as Pulp & Paper), now is time to view it more as standard operating procedure – the new consumerism – and make the appropriate changes in how you do business.

Smart Factories Become Real: For quite some time there has been much hoopla about Industry 4.0 and the smart factories that are the result of this major transformation in how things are made. But this year the underlying concepts and practices of Industry 4.0 are becoming much more concrete, presenting manufacturers with standards, implementation best practices and tangible business results. As manufacturers, it’s important to acknowledge that the industry is, indeed, on the brink of “what’s next” and to prepare to play a leading role. In fact, those who move too slowly (especially when it comes to leveraging data) risk not being able to respond to marketplace needs and, ultimately, becoming overshadowed by more innovative competitors. The 2015 article, Manufacturing’s Next Act, from McKinsey & Company does a great job of painting the full picture, including presenting key trends not covered directly in our list.

Cobotics: Not every automation technology is designed to take the place of a human. In fact, many robotics are simply a human counterpart. The term “cobotics” is part of the smart factory vernacular and is a mash up of “collaboration” or “cooperation” and “robotics.” What’s especially interesting is that the human + robot approach is at the core of many manufacturing advancements. The human component allows manufacturers to maintain innovation while also increasing safety and accuracy, as well as the ability to analyze data (leading to further advancements).

Augmented Reality: Being able to simulate a proposed product and its design and assembly process, while also collecting critical data, can help manufacturers decrease risk at every juncture. Incorporating augmented reality technology can provide more accurate market research, shorten the product development buy-in process, optimize operations and even increase marketing effectiveness thanks to the deeper product and product usage insights gained.

We know the above only skims the surface when it comes to examining how manufacturers are changing the way things will be made in 2017 and beyond – and we’re interested in covering the trends and advancements that you think are most related to your company’s growth and success. To that end, we have a few questions for you:

What is the trend that is most relevant to your industry right now?

What trends have you already incorporated into how you do business?

Which trends are you committed to leveraging in 2017?

What trend has you scratching your head? (whether it has to do with the trends relevancy, potential impact or how to implement)

Helping manufactures determine the best implementation plan in order to achieve the next level growth with the least risk is our strength. If you’re a manufacturing company seeking a partner you can count on as you enter 2017, contact Jim Solich at

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