Globally, the manufacturing sector has gone through a turbulent decade. With the emergence of several developing economies as prominent manufacturing nations, demand was halted by a recession, and employment in manufacturing fell rapidly in advanced economies. Nevertheless, manufacturing is still a critical part of any economy, whether it’s still developing or already advanced.
For emerging economies, manufacturing provides a path from subsistence agriculture to increasing incomes and higher standards of living. In advanced economies, it’s still an important source of innovation and significantly contributes to research and development, increased productivity and economic growth.
However, the manufacturing industry is experiencing a lot of changes. This has brought about both exciting opportunities and tough challenges that policymakers and business leaders must pay attention to. They can no longer rely on old methods in a new era of manufacturing.
There is an important link between manufacturing and economic growth. According to research done by the manufacturing institute, each dollar in the final sale of a manufactured product supports $1.33 in output from other sectors. This is the largest multiplier of any sector, and it demonstrates the strength of manufacturing investments in creating job growth in other sectors.
A lot of current and emerging trends are indicating that the playing field is becoming more level, and there are a wide variety of tools and resources that can help you deliver your products to your customer a lot faster. Here are five significant trends that are shaping manufacturing today.
- Increased Focus on Skills
As the manufacturing industry continues to be revolutionized and the role of technology increases, the skill level required to work in the industry can also be expected to increase, as well. The problem is that many workers don’t have the opportunity to learn the new skills to fill the gap in the industry.As early as 2012, the skills gap had left over 10 million worldwide manufacturing jobs unfilled, and that number has seemingly continued to rise. This shortage of labor can have significant effects on both workers’ incomes and employability, as well as manufacturers’ profitability and growth.
The good news is that this situation can be changed with business leaders and executives noting that talent-driven innovation is the number one determinant of a company’s competitiveness. Manufacturers are actively wanting to recruit highly skilled workers and are willing to compensate above-the-market rates in areas with the largest skills shortages. With a closed skills gap, both manufacturers and workers can expect to thrive again.
- Additive Manufacturing Additive manufacturing creates three-dimensional objects and shapes by adding layers, as opposed to the more traditional subtractive manufacturing, which involves processes like drilling and cutting. Additive manufacturing, which is essentially the industrial version of 3D printing, has been present since the 80’s. However, its recent affordability has been a huge driver of its growth and its role in helping smaller companies take more control of their manufacturing.This technology allows companies rapidly produce prototypes for their designers and engineers. Even large corporations, such as General Electric and HP, have already integrated this process into some of their projects.
This trend applies more to startups and small businesses that are hoping to mass produce a prototype or product. Getting funding from an investor or a financial institution can be tough for some of these companies.Crowdfunding, however, opens another door that can help these companies bring their products to market. Entrepreneurs are increasingly looking towards crowdfunding as a way to acquire the capital that they need for their ventures, and there’s a lot of money to be had, as well.
The global crowdfunding industry raised an astounding $34 billion in 2015 alone, and that number is expected to keep rising. Popular crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have facilitated a lot of fundraising campaigns for smaller startups and businesses.
If you decide to go this route, it is important that you understand the importance of creating a compelling campaign that effectively communicates what your product is all about. Long-term planning is also crucial, as that companies that run successful crowdfunding campaigns can eventually fail because of poor planning.
- Advanced Automation
Artificial intelligence, sensors and vision systems are just a couple of ways that basic automated systems can be transformed into advanced automation. These transformations also aren’t as costly as they might sound. Gadgets like smartphones come with built-in features like GPS and accelerometers, plus Bluetooth technology can serve as an input device for advanced automation.There is usually a misconception that small businesses have about advanced automation. They might believe it’s something that’s reserved for large companies and corporations. Advanced, however, is a relative term and doesn’t necessarily mean expensive.
Simple sensors and barcodes attached to your warehouse racks could mean the difference between losing items and tracking them. With a lot of technology available today at a very reasonable price, small businesses can expect to experience a more level playing field.
- Smart Machinery
Sensors are going to be a part of the production, warehouse storage and shipping processes. They are expected to provide data analytics and inventory data to companies in real-time.As a result, companies can optimize their performances and identify potential issues before they become significant. This machine-to-machine communication is part of data-driven manufacturing and the Internet of Things.