Corporations that create in this world facilitate so many integral pieces to contemporary life by way of manufacturing.
Manufacturing is quite literally a backbone to so many other industries, generating components for medical devices, automobiles, electronics, and machinery that keeps everything progressing forward.
All of these components frequently need to be replaced, or more often upgraded thanks to new innovations that create new capabilities and in turn create new needs.
In addition, global supply chain shortages are driving a new wave of nearshoring to put manufacturing closer to customer locations.
New manufacturing plants will utilize the latest technologies in an effort to increase productivity and competitive advantage. Due to the fact that technology-driven exponential change affects everything, manufacturing businesses must always keep up.
Of all industries, this one is one that has to be anticipatory in both how they manufacture items, and in foreseeing disruptions and change long before they create problems.
But as of late, the disruptions the manufacturing industry faces are actually being caused by new disruptive Hard Trends impacting their processes, and ones that can and will improve the life of human users of products.
5 technology trends impacting the manufacturing industry
1. Increasing use of virtualization of hardware and software, including storage, applications and networking.
Like all businesses, using new tools to elevate your core competencies is an imperative, but to keep costs low and deploy manpower in the best way, many are turning to new virtualized alternatives.
The virtualization of software and hardware has been increasingly used by both large and small businesses as virtualization security improved. Hardware as a Service (HaaS) has increasingly joined Software as a Service (SaaS), creating what some have called “IT-as-a-Service.” How does this impact manufacturing companies and their processes?
When you think of automated manufacturing, you might not consider the actual brain of something operating. The rapid increase in data being generated by systems requires faster processing power, including the virtualization of processing power, and tremendous amounts of storage, including virtual storage.
These improvements transform machines and mobile devices into supercomputers that will help companies cut costs and accelerate innovation in ways only possible utilizing new digital technology.
Going back to IT-as-a-Service for a moment, the thought of how much is involved in automated systems of manufacturing is already mind-boggling. Now, imagine how elaborate an IT department is needed to keep everything running!
This virtualization Hard Trend provides access to powerful software programs and the latest technology without the expense of a large IT staff and time-consuming, expensive upgrades.
2. Virtual reality (VR), including the metaverse, augmented reality (AR) applications and digital twins, will shift from a rapid evolution to a revolutionary level of applications.
Augmented reality allows users to point a digital camera, using a smartphone or by simply wearing AR glasses when they look at something, and they will see an overlay of just-in-time information about the subject they are focusing on.
Soon, companies like Apple and others will be selling conventional-looking AR glasses that allow wearers to overlay data on their field of vision, providing useful information about what they’re looking at.
The application of this tech trend in manufacturing is endless, and an interesting junction where human being capabilities meet transformative digital technology. For instance, there are currently employees in many auto manufacturers who troubleshoot issues with robots assembling cars and producing components.
What if they could simply glance at the machine and see a prompt on their safety glasses to understand exactly what the problem may be?
This doesn’t stop at the manufacturing floor. Virtual reality uses oversized headsets to shut out the real world and provide an immersive, computer-generated 3D environment with which the wearer can interact. Imagine working on a machine for that same auto manufacturer, but from your home office by way of a virtual environment emulating the real environment in real time? Thanks to new relatively low-cost hardware, new commercial applications for specific areas of the manufacturing industry are currently being developed.
3. Rapid convergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) combined with edge computing, AI and 5G will accelerate, forming the Internet of Everything (IoE).
If augmented reality and the speed at which a professional work in the manufacturing industry wasn’t enough, 5G connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT) will accelerate manufacturing processes even further.
Edge computing will increasingly be used to tame the massive amounts of data generated by IoT applications, and as more and more machines and components have networked sensors added to them, we will see the emergence of the Internet of Everything (IoE), bringing instant insights and actions to the point of use and at the speed of nee
Humans already interact with machines, but what many manufacturing firms have discovered is the power of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications that are fast improving. This tech trend utilizes chips, microsensors, and both wired and wireless networks that will join networked sensors to create a rapidly growing IoT, sharing real-time data, performing diagnostics and making virtual repairs, all without human intervention.
Professionals and anticipatory leaders in manufacturing should look for ways to implement these Hard Trends now, because if you don’t, your competition will! There are well over 50 billion “things” talking to each other, performing tasks and making decisions based on predefined guidelines using AI. Think exponentially about where human beings fit and, more importantly, where their skills are absolutely needed in this equation.
4. The adoption of tele-education, remote instruction, online learning and the gamification of training and education will advance rapidly.
Upgrading our employees’ skills is even more important than upgrading technology. Just like in many industries, manufacturing is currently facing a Great Resignation of sorts.
In some cases, employees are leaving because the company they are working for is protecting and defending the status quo instead of embracing the transformational technology changes that are now available.
In addition, the Baby Boomer generation is retiring. Baby Boomers retiring is a Hard Trend future certainty that cannot be changed; the real problem is will they take their knowledge with them when they leave.
One major incentive in bringing new, young talent to work in manufacturing is quality training, which in and of itself is reassurance to those individuals that they have an actual future at these organizations even as new autonomous technology is implemented.
Blended learning is using a combination of online and in-classroom instruction, together with instructional chatbots and AR and VR tools. This will increasingly be used to give employees an immersive experience via retraining and re-skilling, as future disruptions in their status quo occur.
To keep up with the pace of change, education and training will increasingly focus on accelerating learning by using advanced simulations and skill-based learning systems that are self-diagnostic, interactive, game-like and competitive. By making the experience fun, engaging and personalized, learning will improve and the barrier of entry to the industry will lower.
5. Advances in 3D printing (additive manufacturing) are moving from rapid evolution to revolution and they are rapidly being applied to an ever-expanding number of industries.
Here is where we arrive at the products and how technological trends transform the tactile end results of manufacturing. Both customized and personalized manufacturing of finished goods using 3D printing has been growing exponentially and, thanks to global supply chain disruptions, has been accelerated to a new level.
3D printers build things by depositing material, typically plastic or metal, layer by layer, until the product is finished. Originally designed to print prototypes, 3D printers are now increasingly being used to print final products for anything you can imagine, including jewelry, iPhone cases, shoes, car dashboards, parts for jet engines, buildings, bridges, prosthetic limbs, human jaw bones, blood vessels, organs, and much more.
An ever-increasing number of manufacturers are adding 3D printing to their core capability list, making industrial-size, high-quality 3D printers something that manufacturing companies must get in front of now.
As a business leader, it again pays to think exponentially about how you can continue to offer clients top-notch work that keeps them utilizing your services and not trying to find a different supplier or do it themselves.
For instance, 3D printing as a service is increasingly becoming a topic of conversation by the likes of Amazon, where they could 3D manufacture their own products. If you don’t consider how to leverage this shift in the industry, others will!
Leverage these trends with an anticipatory mindset
As evidenced in the five tech trends explored in today’s blog, an anticipatory mindset is a sure-fire way for manufacturing leaders to both leverage technology that makes them more productive, but also to think exponentially about how they can stay ahead of disruptions that could quite easily put their workforce out of a job, or their organization as a whole out of business.
In terms of processing power, high-speed connectivity, and AI and AR applications that are already involved in manufacturing, start to brainstorm how your organization’s future would look if you could leverage those technologies any way you feel necessary.
For example, if you are noticing your customer base is demanding faster and faster turnaround times for products, how can your human workforce work better by implementing 3D printing or any of the five trends I outlined in this blog?
Conversely, think about the additive manufacturing processes that are starting to dominate every industry. You’re not going to put the secret back in the closet; even individuals can now buy varying sizes of 3D printers to utilize at home for small and medium-sized projects.
What does your organization have to offer that they can’t do themselves in the near future?
There has never been more opportunity to not just change, but to truly transform manufacturing and the entire industrial supply chain.
Having a protect-and-defend or a wait-and-see attitude will get you into trouble fast! The time to act on the Hard Trends that are shaping the future is now!
If you want to see the future before it happens, download Daniel Burrus’ Top Technology Hard Trends Shaping 2022 Report.