The manufacturing industry is emerging from a period of profound disruption. In the last 24 months alone a pandemic, supply chain challenges, spiraling energy costs, war in Europe and labour shortages have all stifled production and created major problems for manufacturers.
Many have had to go to great lengths to protect their companies against unpredictable macroeconomic factors. The result of which has seen the increased adoption of innovative technologies and ushered in the era of smart manufacturing as a consequence.
The era of smart manufacturing
The manufacturing sector is predicted to grow at a rate of 3.57% annually between now and 2028. This can be attributed to a number of factors, not least the low bar from which the sector is emerging since the turn of the decade.
However, the main driver of progress – from the sector at large all the way down to individual plants and machinery – is the adoption of smart manufacturing. The global market for which is predicted to reach almost $860bn by 2031.
Next year will see manufacturing companies increase the adoption of smart manufacturing technologies but this means embracing more change at a time when sector turbulence and upheaval finally seem to be settling down. Doing so will bring a number of new challenges as manufacturers transition from the old world to the new.
Five technology challenges
- Paralysis by analysis – Keeping pace with advancements in technology is a constant challenge because technology is nimble and evolves rapidly. Manufacturing is almost its literal opposite and there is understandable reticence about investing heavily in tech only to see it become dated soon after deployment. Manufacturers must avoid paralysis by analysis syndrome and work with a technology vendor that can grow and flex according to their individual requirements.
- Paper-based remains commonplace – Being able to provide a rapid and accurate audit trail is critical for compliance requirements – even more so as digital and remote audits become the norm. Yet paper-based processes remain surprisingly widespread and must be addressed. Manufacturers lacking real-time insights and data-driven decision-making capabilities will face considerable challenges if they do not make 2024 the year they throw paper-based processes in the bin.
- Wasting energy – Now supply chains have settled and stock levels risen, sustainability needs to shoot back to the top of the boardroom agenda. For such an energy-intensive sector as manufacturing, this means any company lacking an energy management system is, figuratively speaking, stumbling around in the dark. From turning off redundant machines to optimising factory floor conditions, there are many ways to improve energy efficiency but without knowing exactly what is being used and where, this decision making is impossible.
- Ditch the disconnected factory – Unexpected downtime is the Achillies heel for all manufacturers. It will never be eradicated completely but yet many manufacturers are still not doing everything they can to mitigate it. Having real-time insights to improve decision-making around predictive maintenance means investing in IoT. With this information at their fingertips, manufacturers are able to obtain detailed machine-level insight helping with everything from maintenance to management.
- Accelerating AI adoption – This particular area of technology is going to move from deliberation to deployment – and quickly. AI has considerable potential to unlock powerful data insights across critical functions such as inventory, production planning, supplier collaboration, and more. All of which can improve efficiency, sustainability and the bottom line. The challenge for manufacturers will be ensuring they have the technical foundations to maximise its potential and getting to grips of where and when to best use it.
Keeping the world turning
Either together or separately, how manufacturers manage these technologically-based challenges will be a defining characteristic of 2024. Change, as they say, is constant and manufacturers cannot – must not – stand still if they are to realistically compete on the world stage. That means not only meeting these challenges head on, but having the right software, processes and tools in place to unlock the potential ‘getting it right’ can bring to the operation. Not just next year, but for many years to come.
Accruent works with manufacturers in over 75 countries helping to solve their biggest challenges covering everything from downtime to document management and asset management to maintenance. Don’t hesitate to reach out!
About the author
Rik Muschamp, Director, Product Management, Accruent. Experienced senior product leader & strategist, passionate about UX & continuous improvement.