Volume 15 | Issue 5 | Year 2012

We’re not immune to the Nostradamus impulse. But we don’t assume the role of prognosticator. Rather, as a journalistic enterprise, we like to report on what we feel are the most reasonable predictions. We leave the fortune-telling to someone like IDC (International Data Corporation) Manufacturing Insights, the Framingham, Mass.-based organization that analyzes trends in global supply chain, demand management, product lifestyle management, operations, technology, and sustainability, among many other elements.
We’ve chosen wisely; the organization isn’t a carnival tent tarot card reader. After all, consider what IDC predicted in 2012: emergence of “engaged” organizations, stronger supply chain alignment, IT support of supply chain, increased adaptation of “lean” innovation, greater product lifecycle visibility, factory capabilities focused more strongly on customer demand than just on production capacity, increased efforts toward sustainability, and the advancement of a culture of learning among manufacturers and their employees. If you’ve been reading Industry Today in the past year, you’ll recognize these topics as common themes that thread through our feature articles and company profiles.

It all came true. Indeed, IDC is prescient.

That’s why we were excited when IDC presented us with its Top 10 manufacturing industry predictions for 2013, which we—in turn—present to you:

  • Prediction 1: Watch for the “new wave” business productivity. Kimberly Knickle, IDC Manufacturing Insights’ practice director, explains what that means: “Many companies are already there, where ‘new wave’ productivity relates to process, business ecosystems, individuals, and management. Scope has broadened and has become much more complex, due to the current economic environment.”
  • Prediction 2: The House of Productivity will be supported by four pillars. “That refers to the first prediction and means ‘how are we going to do this,’” says Knickle. “IDC sees it happening through big data/analytics [tools and technologies], the ‘cloud’ [advanced computing technology], mobility, and social business – more specifically, a combination of these elements, which fosters a collaborative process.”
  • Prediction 3: Resiliency becomes a priority for manufacturers looking to master “massive multidimensionality.” That’s a tough one to swallow. What does it mean? Again, Knickle clarifies: “Resiliency is critical to the supply chain, and complexity comes from the fact that these are global operations and markets – so the capability to respond to unexpected change, and even expected change, is important. It’s about supply chain agility, and multidimensionality simply means keeping track of all that is going on in the chain where the multiple components comes in, and to behave accordingly. That requires resiliency.”
  • Prediction 4: Manufacturing IT organizations will have to support a more productive operational ecosystem. We’re not talking about nature, but about business. “This refers to the manufacturers’ and the business environment challenges, on the supply and demand sides,” describes Knickle.
  • Prediction 5: Companies will recalibrate the product lifecycle process. “Product management is too important to be left to the engineers. The economics of the product lifecycle dictate a LOB [line of business] ‘big tent,’” says Knickle.
  • Prediction 6: IT delivers a “digital thread” for the product management process. “This involves how technology will play a role, and envisioning the full product lifecycle. Some of the components will be visualization technology,” says Knickle.
  • Prediction 7: Service excellence will become a strategic priority. That’s pretty much self-explanatory. Some companies already understand this, and act upon the realization.
  • Prediction 8: Technology advancements will accelerate service excellence initiatives. See above.
  • Prediction 9: People will be at the center of the factory of the future. “We’re really not moving away from labor-intensive manufacturing,” observes Knickle. “This means how important it is for people to make decisions. Higher levels of IT and automation in factory are very important, but how people make decisions, based on information, will make the difference.”
  • Prediction 10: Advanced technologies will emerge in support of operational excellence strategies.

That last prediction is perhaps the most exciting. We can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.

Meanwhile, Bob Parker, IDC Manufacturing Insights’ group vice president, offers this observation: “Manufacturing companies are sitting on a record stockpile of cash and, provided near-term uncertainties are resolved, are looking at robust global markets beyond 2013. Also, we are seeing a generational change at the executive levels across all segments.”

The new generation of manufacturing leadership, IDC anticipates, will favor longer term growth initiatives based on advanced technology. So, the emerging leaders are heading into a brave new world, and without fear.

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