The wheels of the fourth industrial revolution, "Industry 4.0", keep turning — and the manufacturing industry has not been left behind. The industry's future is bright even after the significant blow it got from COVID-19.
From waste management to improving the supply chain and taking advantage of mergers and acquisitions, change is the central theme of 2023. Here are five trends likely to dominate the industry.
- Incorporating waste management practices
- Using connected worker technology
- Improving the supply chain
- Transitioning from B2C to B2B
- Adopting predictive maintenance
1. Incorporating waste management practices
With the increasing demand for sustainability, autonomous operations, and digitalisation, the manufacturing industry has no choice but to take advantage of new waste management practices:
- Automating the processes of waste collection, sorting, and disposal
- Start-ups are coming up with robotic recyclers to sort waste, and these rely on AI-backed algorithms
- Using drones to monitor the radiation and air quality in landfills
- Advanced recycling and innovative composting processes
Many businesses are also exploring biodegradable packaging, circular product design, and sustainable material. There are blockchain-powered solutions to boost recycling efficiency, track the lifecycle of different materials, and divert waste from landfills.
Governments are doing their part in promoting waste conversion to energy through tax cuts and financial incentives.
2. Using connected worker technology
Connected worker technology is critical, especially for small to mid-sized businesses. According to a National Association of Manufacturer's report in May 2021, over two million manufacturing jobs will end up vacant by the end of the decade.
The industry has been struggling with labour shortages and supply chain problems, and this trend seeks to address these issues. Small to mid-sized manufacturers trying to compete with more prominent operators will bear the brunt of this.
These manufacturers use digital transformation to compete effectively. Connected workers are more engaged, productive, and efficient — they use modern technology to make data-driven decisions and automate complex repetitive tasks. They can also authenticate products faster and detect issues in time.
Millennial and Gen Z workers value technology: they are basically the definition of connected workers — they are always online. Currently, they have the highest turnover rates in the workplace.
They stay away from low-tech jobs, especially in the manufacturing industry. Studies by Deloitte suggest that this group of workers isn't attracted to manufacturing jobs — but the rise of connected worker technology could change things.
3. Improving the supply chain
Increased globalisation and changing customer expectations have put immense pressure on supply chains. This means the industry must keep reinventing the supply chain and managing risks. Here are a few supply chain changes you are likely to experience in 2023:
Automation and AI
Automation and AI are used to minimise the risk of human error, and to perform repetitive tasks. As the need for precision and speed increases, this trend will certainly keep growing.
Focus on sustainability
Studies suggest that about 63% of companies believe that product sustainability has become more critical than ever — the number of consumers committed to protecting the environment is on the rise. This demand has been felt in supply chains.
In 2023, more manufacturing companies will be focusing on improving sustainability. The expected changes include revamping packaging designs, switching to alternative energy sources, and eliminating sustainability risks.
In supply chain management, visibility and transparency are among the most important things. The ability to keep track of products and components is priceless — it is important to track everything from manufacturers to processing locations or end users.
Visibility makes it possible to understand different levels of the supply chain. It improves data availability to internal parties, customers, and other stakeholders.
The digitisation of the supply chain is expected to help companies improve visibility in 2023. The right solutions empower teams to access information through different chain links — the most popular tools include robotics, machine learning, AR/VR, and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). Integrating supply chains with third parties can help improve customer service and lower costs.
4. Transitioning from B2C to B2C
Manufacturers have been transitioning from B2B to B2C, and the trend is expected to grow in 2023. The main difference is — the targeted customers. The messaging for B2B focuses on what your products can offer to businesses. With B2C, the marketing message is tailored to the end consumers’ needs.
In 2023, more businesses will adopt the dynamism of consumers and transition from B2B to B2C. By restructuring their business systems, manufacturers can increase their profit margins, provide various products, implement consumer feedback, and price their products better.
The need to offer high-quality customer experiences makes the B2C model unbeatable. The quality of customer service has become just as important as the quality of goods.
Even though manufacturers weren't quick to adapt to e-commerce, the industry is quickly picking up. Many manufacturers are now trying to create seamless customer service experiences.
5. Adopting predictive maintenance
Predictive maintenance is fast, and as such it surpasses traditional policies. It focuses on the ability of a company to foresee system breakdowns. You can take proactive measures to avoid downtime by detecting early signs of failure.
In addition to the obvious benefit of acting before failure, predictive maintenance also helps you attend to faults even when they don't pose an immediate danger.
Downtime can prove to be very costly. In fact, manufacturing companies report over $ 100,000 in losses after just an hour of downtime. Infrastructure accounts for most of the losses in productivity.
In conclusion, 2023 has a lot in stock for the manufacturing industry. As it recovers from the hit by COVID, there will be lots of changes to address changing customer expectations and needs.
About the author
For over 30 years, Eric Whitley has been a noteworthy leader in the Manufacturing space. In addition to the many publications and articles Eric has written on various manufacturing topics, you may know him from his efforts leading the Total Productive Maintenance effort at Autoliv ASP or from his involvement in the Management Certification programs at The Ohio State University, where he served as an adjunct faculty member.
After an extensive career as a reliability and business improvement consultant, Eric joined L2L, where he currently serves as the Director of Smart Manufacturing. His role in this position is to help clients learn and implement L2L’s pragmatic and simple approach to corporate digital transformation. Eric lives with his wife of 35 years in Northern Utah. When Eric is not working, he can usually be found on the water with a fishing rod in his hands.