Bottom Line: The top ten trends transforming manufacturing today are going to accelerate in 2018 as customers, suppliers and partners force greater agility, speed, and scale into every aspect of production operations.
According to a recent IQMS survey, to 92% of manufacturers say product quality defines their success in the eyes of their customers. 56% of manufacturers find their customers most frequently demand short notice production capabilities as a value-added service. 50% define their success by their ability to meet on-time deliveries consistently. You can download a copy of the survey results here, What drives growth for best-in-class manufacturers? (PDF, opt-in, free).
The top three findings from the recent IQMS survey reflect the challenges manufacturers are facing globally to stay in step with customers who expect every online experience to be like Amazon or Facebook. Accurate, fast, real-time feedback 24/7 on any device, anytime delivered over a state-of-the-art interface is the new normal. Expect manufacturing trends for 2018 to focus on meeting and exceeding those challenges with the best product quality possible to drive the most efficient path to higher growth.
The following are the top ten manufacturing trends for 2018:
- 2018 is going to be a pivotal year in manufacturing software usability. In the next 12 months, every manufacturing software provider will make significant improvements in their user interface designs to retain existing customers and gain new ones. In the next twelve months, the software providers who choose to make this priority will win more deals than competitors and have a quicker onramp to delivering new features than competitors. For manufacturers the year is coming you’ve been waiting for; the trend for manufacturing apps is to become more usable, flexible and configurable to your needs.
- Demand for manufacturing engineering, business analysts capable of interpreting operational data, and data scientists who are familiar with manufacturing will skyrocket. In 2018 the most urgent challenge manufacturers are going to deal with is a significant skills shortage. Finding the right people for jobs that are based on getting the most value out of data will proliferate.
- Despite the many fears that robotics will take jobs, in 2018 robots will be given repetitive, manual tasks freeing up engineering and production teams’ time for more cognitive, valuable tasks. The reality of robotics is that the most repetitive, manually-intensive jobs scale from an automation perspective. These jobs are known for their mundane nature. Delegating them to robotics systems will free up valuable thinking time for employees to make greater contributions than manual labor allows.
- Nascent technologies including collaborative robots, 3D printing, virtual reality and voice-activation assistants will be piloted next year with broad adoption by 2021. The collection of these technologies are riding a wave of hype today, with business cases being defined and piloted. Piloting will continue with broad adoption of these technologies driven by business cases in three years.
- Industry 4.0 and smart factories will win more converts in 2018 driven by the need to improve product quality and enable more efficient strategies for attaining compliance. Compliance and quality management will be the two most powerful drivers for Industry 4.0 and smart factories throughout 2018 and beyond. The pure efficiency these models promise to make the most business sense from a supply chain risk mitigation standpoint. Industry 4.0 tied to speed alone is part of the hype; when it’s anchored to quality, adoption of smart factories will soar.
- OEE and traditional metrics of manufacturing performance will go through a transformation due to real-time monitoring and predictive analytics. Moving beyond static measures of machine performance and plant-floor productivity, the trend for the next generation of manufacturing metrics is based on real-time monitoring and predictive analytics will begin to emerge in 2018.
- Reducing global supply chain risk through by more effective quality management strategies, compliance programs, and supplier collaboration will become a strategic priority. Given the natural disasters and political tensions globally that are increasing in frequency, supply chain risk will again become a strategic priority within all manufacturers in 2018. Look for more concentrated efforts at managing suppliers to higher product quality levels while attaining more accurate demand forecasts.
- The Internet of Things (IoT) hype of having a sensor on literally everything on a shop floor will give away to unique use cases where millions of dollars of savings are attained and higher accuracy levels achieved. The greatest IoT wins in 2018 will be in distribution-centric and distributed manufacturing-based businesses that rely on quick moving inventories and tightly synchronized product introductions. These business strategies will show the value of IoT from a purely performance-based standpoint. Time-to-market and supply chain risk mitigation will be the pragmatic uses cases dominating this area in 2018.
- Manufacturing Intelligence will emerge as the system of record, providing a wealth of data to drive more efficient production operations. Capturing data to the machine level and having that reside in a company-wide system of record will revolutionize the level of insights possible for troubleshooting production bottlenecks and quality problems. From the shop floor to the top floor, new insights gained using Manufacturing Intelligence will also change how OEE is perceived as a metric. Greater insights into just how a manufacturing site is performing and what steps can be taken to optimize its workflows will be known for the first time.
- The combination of new on-premise, hosted and cloud-based manufacturing applications will make integration a critical success factor for manufacturing in 2018. 2017 is the year the API (Application Programmer Interfaces) became one of the most scalable technologies in enabling new systems that support emerging business models. Please see the Forbes post, 2017 Is Quickly Becoming The Year Of The API Economy for more specifics on how 2017 is a transitional year in API proliferation throughout system architectures. For manufacturers, APIs are the fuel that enable entirely new product lines, business models and more coordinated production centers.