4 Top Digital Manufacturing Trends To Keep An Eye On

We recently wrote about Industry 4.0 and the challenges faced by manufacturing firms in embracing the concepts. To help understand what changes are continuing to impact the industry, we wanted to look at the top digital manufacturing trends to keep an eye on for 2020.

Much of what we talk about when referring to trends are shifts that take place over years. A trend is not something that is hot today and gone tomorrow. Nor is it a trend one year and not the next. Trends impact industries over time. Similar to the law of diffusion of innovation, a trend may start with the innovators (very few companies) and may not yet be scalable. Over the coming years, as efficiencies are discovered, early adopters start applying the trends, followed by the early majority. This is why trends are not always new news, but rather advancements in technologies that have existed and are only now being implemented more broadly.

AI & IoT Are Merging

Two trends that have been around for the better part of a decade are bearing fruit and more and more being used in combination. According to Gartner, 80% of IoT programs will include AI. And the results are real. Forbes estimates that AIoT could improve profitability by 38%. The term for this hybrid is AIoT. 

A definition of the concept courtesy of SAS, “Driving innovation and gaining a competitive advantage requires more than just connecting devices and gathering data. Without AI capabilities, IoT devices and the data they produce would have limited value. And AI applications would struggle for relevancy if it weren’t for the IoT data flooding today’s utilities, manufacturers, retailers, hospitals, insurers, etc. IoT gives brands the potential to expand the customer experience, anticipating needs and becoming truly embedded in the consumer’s world. When you merge AI and IoT, you get the Artificial Intelligence of Things, or AIoT – a revolutionary combination that can transform industries, elevate customer experiences and accelerate business performance exponentially.”

Becoming Customer Centric

Manufacturing is one area where companies can get caught up in the product, after all, that’s what manufacturing is all about. However, the move to becoming more focused on the customer experience is impacting everyone, including manufacturing. As factories become smarter, they are able to incorporate customer needs into their process. 

Rather than cost dictating what gets produced when and where, consumer expectations can now be taken into consideration, changing the equation on the size of a production run, the location it is produced, and even the type of product being produced.

Smart Factories Are Opening

Schneider Electric upgraded their Lexington, KY facility (in operation since 1958) to become the first smart factory in the United States and the results are promising. They have eliminated 90% of the paperwork (who doesn’t love that), and reduced mean repair time by 20%. 

What is a smart factory? Deloitte defines it as, “a flexible system” that can self-optimize, self-adapt, and learn from new conditions in real or near-real time, and autonomously run entire production processes.” The factory makes use of augmented reality (AR) to view real-time operational data. The skepticism of these technologies has disappeared as functional use cases have been made.

5G is Coming

Much like AI, IoT, and AR, 5G is starting to make noise as a transformative technology for the manufacturing industry. Unlike the other technologies, it is still new and it will be some time before it is adopted by a majority of the industry. But it’s arrival is no less important than the technologies that came before it.

Manufacturers will be on the heels of the telecommunications companies as they build out the 5G networks. Benefits include speeds up to 100x faster than 4G, latency dropping to a tenth of a millisecond, and sensors that can be used for different purposes on different days, depending on your needs. The amount of data that can be captured and transferred in real-time will enable an entirely new set of technologies to improve manufacturing.

With manufacturers constantly looking to reduce costs while improving efficiencies and quality, adopting digital manufacturing trends is necessary to compete. If you’re looking to modernize your digital acumen, send us note. Our team of executive recruiters can help you with your leadership needs as well as guide you on the digital landscape.