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5 Trends Manufacturing Leaders Shouldn't Ignore

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What new technologies change the way products are made and delivered? How does the increase in urban populations affect manufacturing trends? What does the growing global economy mean for manufacturing leaders?

Manufacturers and logistics companies must keep current with the changes in their industry if they want their businesses to survive. Here are 5 trends that manufacturing leaders can’t afford to ignore.

1. The Internet of Things Integrated with Daily Life

The idea that electronic devices can be controlled with the internet and a smart technology interface is often referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT)

Affordable and widely accessible broadband internet has made this idea possible. Consumers don’t think twice about using smart technology to automate their everyday lives. You now have the potential to control all of your electronic devices from one digital platform.

Manufacturing may be the perfect industry for IoT automation. The manufacturing process is highly interconnected, requiring several individual moving parts to come together as a totally realized whole. By connecting the physical process with digital oversight tools, manufacturers receive and exchange information faster. Asset management is clearer and linked across all phases of production.

The process of automation becomes easier too. Instead of manually executing each machine’s function, a manufacturer can sync all of their physical equipment’s operations through the Internet.

3D Printing

3D printing continue to develop at an impressive rate. Manufacturers can reap several rewards by integrating this rising technology into their workflow.

By incorporating a 3D printer into your manufacturing process, you can save room on inventory. Rather than back piling every component you use, they can be created as needed. There’s less of a need to outsource the manufacturing of parts. Create what you need in-house with a 3-D printer and save money.

By using one piece of intelligent equipment to do several jobs, a manufacturer’s supply chain becomes more efficient. There’s no replacing or resetting machinery when moving from one process to the next. That means less downtime and more productivity.

Even companies without any 3D Printing experience are looking to integrate the technology to their process. In 2016, Forbes reported that over 71 percent of manufacturers use 3D printing. 52 percent of manufacturers anticipate that 3D printing will be used in high-volume production in the next three to five years.

Urbanization

The amount of people choosing to live in metropolitan cities worldwide is growing. More people living in urban environments may lead to increased need for materials and a shorter supply chain.

As city populations increase, the need for housing does too. Apartments and other buildings will need steel, cement, and other construction materials. More people living in urban areas also means a growth in public transportation. Many Third Party Logistics companies (3PLs) will have more city clients to serve.

How do centralized city populations shrink a supply chain? Many goods originate from urban areas, or are housed in storage facilities and distribution centers in large cities. With more people located in metropolitan areas, less travel is required for product to reach the end user. This can mean creating more goods in shorter amounts of time.

Automated Robots and Human Pilots

Robots with artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming cheaper and easier to use. These machines are often used to complete dangerous manufacturing operations that are unsafe for humans. With features like voice-activated controls and virtual reality heads-up displays, piloting robots will become simpler.

A new workforce is needed to operate these intelligent machines. Because of artificial intelligence in the automation process, Forrester Research estimates close to 15 million new jobs will be created in the US over the next ten years.

Human workers will be needed to interpret the data. While AI and smart technologies can create a more efficient manufacturing process, they are still machines that need to be told what to do, Bill Ruh, CEO of General Electric Digital, emphasizes the importance of collecting and analyzing data to create smart automated workflows. “You cannot build a brilliant factory without insight” says Ruh in an interview with Business Insider.

Africa as a Manufacturing Nation

Africa is one of the last nations to develop a presence in the international manufacturing playing field.

The Chinese are already investing in Africa. According to Chinese Ministry of Commerce, over 150 private Chinese investors have manufacturing interests in Africa. Sun Wei, owner of a textile manufacturing factory, explains why it’s advantageous to operate in Africa. A lack of competition, a readily available labor force, and a demand for product allows greater margins than manufacturing at home.

The presence of industry in Africa helps empower to impoverished continent. Africa is home to the largest eligible work force in the world. But many of these people are without job opportunities. When new manufacturing companies establish a presence in Africa, they have access to virtually unlimited labor. The median age for the continent of Africa is only 23. The World Economic Forum speculates that by 2034 Africa will have the largest population of working-age adults.

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Topics: Manufacturing Trends