Manufacturing Tech TrendsA number of technological trends are poised to drive the long-term direction of the manufacturing industry. Some of these trends are already impacting manufacturers today, while others are expected to become more and more prominent in the years ahead. As a result, it's crucial for companies to grow in their awareness of these tech trends, how they will evolve, and what their effects will be in both the near and distant future.

Let's take a look at five poised to disrupt manufacturers' businesses:

1. The ever-evolving Internet of Things (IoT) is allowing manufacturers to improve operational efficiency, increase workplace safety, develop smarter and more innovative products and spark transformative organizational change.

Manufacturers today are readily embracing new and cutting-edge ways to engineer and develop equipment, and many have found ways to successfully embed software into their product offerings.

Incorporating the Internet of Things into innovation activities is no small task, but a greater number of manufacturers are beginning to see the value in taking advantage of the numerous benefits to to be gained. They include:

  • Communicating faster and more efficiently
  • Addressing safety issues
  • Tackling organizational waste
  • Making other operational improvements

And as the industry grows increasingly comfortable with the Internet of Things, expect to see manufacturers begin to bring their product offerings to scale with significantly greater ease. The technology has arrived. Now the onus is on companies to invest in it and leverage it to its full advantage. 

2. While augmented reality is a technology that's still very much in its infancy, it's now being used in a number of manufacturing-related applications.

If manufacturers are successful in their efforts to find practical and useful applications for augmented reality, the ways in which the industry does business could fundamentally be transformed in the not-too-distant future.

The technology -- which allows virtual reality graphics to interact with the physical environment, from a user's perspective -- shouldn't be dismissed by manufacturers as a futuristic technological gimmick. It's simply the next step in the ongoing evolution of how people interact with computers.

Within the next three to five years, experts predict mixed reality technology will become more common in corporate settings, followed by a tipping point of adoption by consumers. Current use cases include sales, marketing, engineering and design. After that? It's really anyone's guess, but augmented reality's potential for disruption in the manufacturing industry remains sky high.

3. The growing digitization of processes and the interconnectivity of the goods they produce is driving the manufacturing industry to capture value through investment in (and implementation of) Industry 4.0 solutions.

It's the consensus opinion of both economists and technology experts that the world is entering a fourth industrial revolution, and manufacturers need to ready themselves for what's to come. And those companies within the industry that best position themselves to capture the value of Industry 4.0 can expect to see growing success in the years ahead. 

When Industry 4.0 solutions are properly implemented, manufacturers should see new value in the following five areas:

  • Resource productivity and efficiency
  • Speed to market
  • Customization to individual customer needs
  • Agility to changing customer needs
  • Value opportunity through new services

4. The rise of 3D printing – otherwise known as additive manufacturing – is slowly convincing manufacturers to overhaul a number of expensive and archaic processes.

3D printingFrom its humble beginnings as a plastic prototyping process, 3D printing has slowly but surely developed into a disruptive technology poised to have far-reaching effects on the manufacturing industry

The costly and time-consuming process of tooling is a prime example of a potential application for 3D printing. The creation of molds, jigs, and fixtures employed in the mass production of heavy equipment often takes months, costs upwards of six figures, and regularly involves companies based outside of the United States. 

However, the adoption of 3D printing could change all that. Tooling could end up taking days, as opposed to months. And it could cost thousands instead of hundreds of thousands. It’s already happening in other industries. Now it’s manufacturing’s turn to invest in and adopt in this useful technology.

5. In an effort to combat workforce issues and address the ever-worsening skilled worker shortage, manufacturers are increasingly looking to mobile robotics technology as a viable and appealing solution.

The skills gap is a huge problem for the manufacturing industry, and it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

The manufacturing industry and other skilled trades face a wealth of workforce challenges today. A growing shortage of qualified skilled workers is making it more and more difficult for many companies to fill jobs, and a high turnover rate is preventing organizations from retaining their best and brightest employees. Could investing in mobile robotics be the answer to the problem? That remains to be seen, but many companies are betting on it

In time, it may even seem like a foregone conclusion that manufacturers will need to either learn how to adopt mobile robotics and incorporate it into their operations or risk long-term consequences to their bottom lines. Here's why:

  • Although mature robotics technology exists in many industries, it’s not yet been commoditized. Waiting for the technology to become readily available may take some time. As a result, it’s important for organizations to invest now and stay ahead of their competition.
  • The cost to acquire the components is low.
  • Companies incorporating robotics into their components are finding competing in this space is a cost-effective business opportunity right now.
  • The landscape is still open, but it’s becoming crowded. Waiting too long before investing in robotics might lock companies out on certain technology.

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