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5 Trends in Manufacturing for 2018


More skilled and trained technicians will be needed and fewer manual workers.

With 2017 coming to a close, it’s time to take a step back and consider what trends will affect manufacturing in the coming year.

1) Automation. While it’s a given that automation will continue to make further inroads into manufacturing, the effect is deeper than has perhaps been anticipated.

The much-touted Internet of Things is now a reality, and with sensors throughout the plant and monitoring every point, management expects to have a real-time view of everything that’s going on in the plant.

Robotics will be used more frequently, especially as capital costs come down. One significant effect that will be seen this coming year is the challenge of software integration, as companies seek software platforms that can cover a variety of new automated devices, ever-growing numbers of sensors – including RFID and barcode readers throughout the plant – and legacy applications that remain in operation and need to interface with new platforms. Which leads us to…

2) Digital transformation and legacy integration. Plants can no longer have the luxury of just keeping on doing things the old way. Yet keeping the plant in operation while digitizing non-digital processes and integrating legacy software will be a challenge. Expect many millions of dollars to spent in this area, in the name of efficiency and cost-savings once complete.

3) Revolution in Quality Control. With ever-more sensors detecting every detail of plant operations and the manufacturing process, older analytical methods such as Statistical Process Control won’t cut it. SPC depended on taking representative samples of production and statistically projecting the likelihood of compliance with spec. Six-sigma conformity was good enough.

Now, with real-time detection, perfection is expected. However, the vast volumes of data read by sensors throughout the plant defy real-time analysis by conventional software, hence the growth of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to crunch Big Data and come up with meaningful conclusions in real time.

4) Inbound marketing. Expect inbound marketing, including social media strategy. If you are having a hard time with media marketing use promo media advertising services to have a greater place in business decisions.

Buyers – including corporate buyers – more than ever research a purchase online before contacting potential suppliers. By the time a company becomes aware of a prospective client’s need of their product, the buyer already has done his research and may have even passed the point of a buying decision.

So an online presence that can lead the buyer right through the buying process is becoming a core necessity.

5) Finding and retaining a skilled workforce. This may well become a defining issue for many manufacturers in 2018. With tax and trade issues intended to bring manufacturing back onshore, a lack of skilled workers is becoming a major bottleneck for many companies.

Despite the push to bring manufacturing home, unemployment is low and in many areas manufacturing workers are simply not available.

To overcome this, retraining and upskilling is going to be key. Many positions of manual work are no longer needed, but a growing demand for technicians who can program and service computerized equipment will require new skills.

So 2018 promises to be a challenging year, with deepening inroads of trends that have already begum. Those who rise to the challenge will reap the rewards, but those who fall behind will have a bigger job to catch up.

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