A lot has been said about manufacturing trends caused by the fourth industrial revolution’s focus on technology. It has provided manufacturers with opportunities to use modern methods and tools throughout the manufacturing process, which increase production capacity, reduce operational costs, and help deliver exceptional service to their customers.
As marketers, we don’t necessarily work directly in manifesting these technologies but we do have to know how they might impact the marketing landscape and determine how to promote them to the right audiences. We have to understand them and their implications. This is especially important as there is a growing need for manufacturers to adapt to technological changes due to the acceleration prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. So take a look at these manufacturing trends marketers should watch as part of the ongoing fourth industrial revolution.
1. Stricter Standards in Worker Safety
Worker safety should always be a priority in any workplace. However, the pandemic has forced manufacturers to establish many new standards, especially those that pertain to worker safety.
Apart from enforcing the new standards in safety such as social distancing and regular sanitation, manufacturers are now also strictly monitoring all individuals that enter and leave their premises and which staff, tools, and machines they’ve been in contact with.
2. Internet of Things
For many years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been a top manufacturing trend, and 2021 is no exception. As it continues to become more popular, the use of networked devices will help manufacturers make more informed decisions in real time, which may also help increase efficiency in production.
According to the MPI group, about 31% of manufacturers have incorporated IoT into their systems. Furthermore, nearly 34% have established plans to integrate IoT-related technology into their systems, while the rest plan to embed this technology into their products.
This technology could offer both predictive maintenance and remote monitoring capabilities, making it possible for manufacturers to monitor their remote operations from afar. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the manufacturing sector, IoT technology will becomes a more and more important consideration for manufacturers who want to thrive.
3. Connected Workforce
The use of modern and cutting-edge technology to keep workers connected remotely is on the rise among manufacturers. Older workers are retiring and are being replaced with younger staff. There’s also a rise in automated data transfer and the use of complex technologies in manufacturing. Thus, finding tools and methods to make the remote workforce as productive as possible is becoming a top priority for manufacturers.
Consequently, it has also become vital for manufacturers to provide training and development resources for their workers as they try to maximize their output from afar. If you do it well and in good time, you may just gain an advantage over your competitors.
4. Accessible Automation
Computerized operations in the manufacturing world aren’t entirely new, but they are spreading faster. Modern technologies have made automation possible for most manufacturers, and it has changed how manufacturers operate.
Automation of operations is made possible using robotic systems, human-robot tandems, and manufacturing process management systems, which help manufacturing companies optimize their workflows, reduce costs, and increase revenue.
5. Enterprise Resource Planning
Enterprise resource technology has been around for many decades. But recently, it’s becoming more in demand, especially with the introduction of cloud-based SaaS options that are more affordable and easier to deploy, especially for small manufacturers.
Enterprise resource planning helps manufacturers computerize different production processes in one system. This integrated system allows manufacturers to easily get a bird’s eye view of the entire manufacturing process and make improvements where needed.
6. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
Manufacturers can now access more data than ever before, and the tools that help them make the most use of this data are machine learning and artificial intelligence or AI.
AI isn’t limited to talking and walking robots. It’s also the computer’s ability to recognize trends and make logical data-driven conclusions. Machine learning and AI can help manufacturers in inventory management, forecasting accuracy, supply chain visibility, and asset tracking.
7. Predictive Maintenance
Predictive maintenance has been made possible by integrating IoT and AI. It helps companies avoid technical issues or unanticipated shutdowns by identifying potential problems in advance so they can be addressed even before they start.
Incorporating predictive maintenance technology into your manufacturing operations can save you downtime and maintenance costs.
8. Procurement Technology
The effective management of procurement processes is important if you want your purchasing team to reduce costs when they look for suppliers, services, and goods for your company.
More modern manufacturing trends force companies to incorporate new technologies that touch all the functions surrounding the core manufacturing process. Inventory, logistics, sales, transport, assembly, and procurement can all be influenced by modern technologies. For instance, adding barcodes and sensors to products allows companies to keep track of their items.
9. 3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing
3D printing is primarily being used in the manufacturing industry as a cost-saving tool, and it is particularly popular in the metal fabrication sector and among other manufacturers that produce metal components, such as those that make cast metal products.
Additive manufacturing, as it is also known, enables manufacturers to create a wide variety of metal products, even complex ones, using just a single machine, thus eliminating the need for multiple machines and processes. 3D printing was originally used for prototyping, but it is now being used in a limited production capacity, when its few design restrictions and access to a wide array of materials prove beneficial.
With fewer machines needed and more freedom with design, a manufacturing company can save a lot if the fit is right with 3D printing. It also makes it possible to manufacture metal products that were previously impossible to produce because of their complex geometries. The downsides are that additive manufacturing can only produce limited quantities and is slow when compared to traditional manufacturing processes.
Manufacturing Trends Will Continue to Evolve
All these manufacturing trends will influence both the immediate and the long-term future of the manufacturing industry, as well as marketing for manufacturers. As they continue to impact businesses around the world, marketers need to keep tabs on them and assess how they will change over time — and how they may affect the businesses they represent.
The good news is that change like this also brings opportunity. So don’t be afraid of the changes. Learn to adapt and don’t stop learning. That’s the only way to continue thriving in a changing market.