As the COVID-19 restrictions ease and manufacturing activities begin to rebound, significant challenges such as fluctuating supply chain, labor shortages, and inflation still remain. Against this backdrop, manufacturers are constantly switching gears to determine how best to serve their customers in the foreseeable future.

To stay ahead of manufacturing trends and stay competitive, technology has taken a front seat. Even so, manufacturers must also remain agile and find ways to streamline their operations. Given this, here are the key manufacturing trends to be on the lookout for.

1. Consumer-Driven Manufacturing

Consumer demands change just as quickly as technology evolves. This makes it challenging for manufacturers to act fast and provide the products and services that are in demand. At the very least, the modern consumer expects personalized products and services, same-day delivery, and a transparent delivery process.

A consumer-driven manufacturing model focuses on anticipating the needs of the people who use your products. It does this by integrating new technologies and capabilities such as the internet of things (IoT), data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), among others, into your existing software and systems.

Manufacturers can implement approaches like asset location monitoring, digital quality control, and automated replenishment of materials to optimize operational efficiency and deliver products to customers more quickly.

2. Predictable Supply Chain

Manufacturers are typically dealing with a dynamic fluctuation in demand and supply. According to Deloitte, most purchasing managers continue to experience complications from the rising cost of freight and materials, high consumer demand, and slow deliveries.

Today, more and more manufacturers are working on strategies to make the supply chain and logistics more predictable. By replacing manual processes with technology such as data analytics, AI, and sensors, supply chain managers can easily identify patterns, forecast purchasing demands, and better manage their inventory.

3. Smart Manufacturing

Another manufacturing trend to watch out for is smart manufacturing. According to studies, the market size of smart manufacturing is expected to hit the $480 billion mark by 2023. Smart manufacturing combines IoT and AI. The integrated technology enables smart devices to sense their environment and interact with one another.

Predictive maintenance uses smart sensors to predict equipment failure. Computer-generated environments and 3D printing also use smart technology. An ERP system aggregates the data from various sensors and equipment, enabling the entire organization to access and use it to make informed decisions.

The increasing prominence of 5th generation networks (5G) presents a great opportunity for manufacturers to leverage new technology. Compared to previous generations, 5G has more wireless flexibility, a higher capacity, and lower latency.

4. Connected Services

Connected services are offerings that are based around internet-powered devices like healthcare devices, hand tools, machinery, vehicles, and even turbines. While the opportunities for connected devices are numerous, some of the common examples include vehicle telematics, remote control over equipment and machinery, and smart home solutions and automation.

Offering connected services not only creates a better customer experience but also enables manufacturers to differentiate themselves from their competition. Data collected at various points in the customer’s journey can be used to improve the quality of the products manufactured as well as their associated services. Moreover, connected services also create regular revenue streams and increased margins.

5. Industry 4.0 Is Gaining Footholds

Industry 4.0 continues to be a popular topic when discussing current and future manufacturing trends. It comprises many things but is typically considered to involve the use of hyper-automation and big data to create efficiencies in processes.

Here is one way 4.0 is gaining prominence: In the manufacturing industry, consider the advancement of healthcare devices. While previously glucose meters were operated using batteries and had no internet capabilities, today, most of these devices are connected to the digital world. Users can keep track of their health, healthcare providers can serve patients better, and manufacturers can gain better insights.

Bottom Line

Given the tumultuous times that the manufacturing industry experienced during the pandemic period, it is important that players in this industry implement even a few of these trends to meet their customers’ demands and gain a competitive edge. In order to do this, they can look to material handling companies that can help them optimize their supply chain.