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The manufacturing sector both in the UK and globally has seen turbulent times over the past year with various factors having their say. Uncertainly was rife, and the effects still ripple though into the new calendar year. Manufactures can not let this disruption veer their aspirations, their services & their products they provide off course.
Looking forward at the immediate and long-term future of the manufacturing industry, several trends could take shape in 2020 and beyond. Manufacturing is one of the largest and most important industries in the world. As a result, competition can be fierce, and developments happen quickly. It is vital to take time to look at what is happening and how you can use them to aid your advantage.
Predictive Maintenance and all its Wizardry
Machine maintenance is at the heart of a smooth-running manufacturing operation. Downtime through breakdown can cause bottlenecks in production which will have a knock-on effect with customer satisfaction. Being able to predict any failures and impending breakdowns would be hugely valuable. Predictive maintenance aims to accomplish this and so much more.
Industry 4.0 is gaining traction, and this is where predictive maintenance will feel most at home. Using and analysing production data to predict patterns and identify potential issues before they occur.
Though as in utilising industry 4.0, predictive maintenance also has challenges for manufactures looking to implement. Knowing what variables can trigger events to occur can become your success or failure to implement and run successful predictive maintenance. It is critical that you or within your company you have the knowledge of each machine and a solid data set of previous failings.
Machine Data & Real-Time Analytics with a Pinch of AI
Following on from predictive maintenance, but in a broader sense is machine data, real-time analytics and AI. Big data has been the key to several success stories in the tech industries and harnessing the data collection from production systems and operational machinery can provide insights into production performances, finding bottlenecks in the production line and aid predictive maintenance.
The question is with all this data how we find what we are looking for, this is where AI and machine learning is gaining strength. AI in terms of manufacturing will not be limited to the big global manufacturing factories. There is a trend through SAAS that is enabling smaller manufacturers to access AI and feed data at relatively low costs. Increasing accessibility will benefit manufactures of all sizes as AI is scalable, fast and convenient, allowing for better decision making and ultimately increasing efficiency and service levels.
Custom Created Applications, Not Just for Big Tech
I have long been an advocate of do it yourself applications and database programs. For me it started with Excel Spreadsheets and what they could be utilised for, as technology advanced and low code applications with huge customisation features became available the requirement for the all singing ERP systems with huge price tags became obsolete.
We as a team knew our processes and switching to a custom database application at a fraction of the cost was a perfect fit. Yes, we had to build the system, yes there were teething problems, but ultimately it has been a successful switch. Enabling our team to view production in a new light. This trend will continue to grow throughout 2020 as less emphasis is put into the coding of applications due to a number SAAS options that allow users to focus on the way the data is presented.
Throw in a bit of IoT and you can link in the first two trends mentioned to supercharge your manufacturing prowess to a whole new level.
Engaging with Customers though personalised Understanding
Now what good would all that data, presented in fast real-time action, be without someone to share it with. The focus on this could just be internal but enabling an external focus would gain insights into customer requirements and the problems they face.
As technology continues to grow as it has in previous years, human interaction became less and less. The slew of communication tools available have push way the sometimes vitally important face to face meetings. The results, impersonal information. Now while this maybe what a customer or potential customer is looking for, going the extra mile for a customer gains valuable trust in a working partnership that will aid the continuation of the relationship, even help it grow.
How can this be done, the same communication tools that took away the personal touch. Social media applications have evolved and SAAS options have popped up, integrated into social media, email, video conference and many more. The results when combined with all of the above will enable a truly personal touch to enabling the customer to receive the information they want and when they want it.
Sustainability & Ethical Supply Chains Grow in all Their Beauty
Sustainability needs to become a foundation for manufactures to increase their resilience to how volatile the industry has been over the past. Being sustainable or even pursuing sustainable growth can be aided through nurturing an ethical supply chain.
Environmental and wellbeing trends are not going to fade away and the benefits can be taken by all, even the manufacturing industry. Sustainability will be aided though ethical supply chain management as there will be less waste both internally and externally for the manufacturer. This will also sit very happily within the points made above as machine data and predictive maintenance will aid efficiencies in becoming more sustainable.
Forbes already predicted 2019 to be the year
when Manufacturing-as-a-Service will come to the fore of the manufacturing
industry. While we could already see the first steps of metal fabrication
coming online, only a few engineers have actually heard about these possibilities.
Even fewer have used the services.
3D printing made its full entry to the
manufacturing scene a couple of years ago. And it did so mainly online because
they had no expectations for traditional ways of working. Engineers have been
delighted to adopt the new online workflows. And are expecting other
disciplines to follow suit.
Metalworking has only now started to take
advantage of the possibilities of the web. Laser cutting services were the first and simplest method to be
offered with instant quotes. Now, we can already see the first platforms that
are able to price bent metal parts in seconds based on 3D models only. Look out
for this trend in 2020, as there is now enough competition in this space to
spur each other on for quick advancements.
What is the Trend of these Trends?
These trends are all linked. While they may not all suit every manufacture, they all aid the concepts of each other in providing a platform for better communication, increased understanding and better manufacturing services, the building blocks for sustainable growth. 2020 is set to be an interesting year ahead and a truly exciting prospect for manufacturing.