Manufacturing has undergone a major digital transformation in the last few years, with technological advancements, evolving consumer demands and the COVID-19 pandemic serving as major catalysts for change. To maintain their competitiveness and overcome today’s challenges, manufacturers have had to make agility and adaptability top priorities.

Here, we’ll discuss the major manufacturing trends that will change the industry in the coming year.

1. Digitalization and Industry 4.0

Digitalization has had a profound impact on the manufacturing sector, enabling businesses to optimize processes, improve quality and reduce costs. Industry 4.0—also known as the fourth industrial revolution—is the latest phase of the manufacturing industry’s digital transformation. It integrates advanced technologies—like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing—into an organization’s existing manufacturing processes. 

Industry 4.0 enables manufacturers to conduct real-time data collection and analysis for vast amounts of data, providing them valuable insights into their operations.

It also helps organizations more easily manage and maintain equipment, utilizing cloud storage and facilitating communication between enabled equipment to create more flexible, agile manufacturing systems that can adapt quickly to changes in demand.

IDG infographic to understand how you can unlock Industry 4.0 with an asset lifecycle management cloud

2. Artificial intelligence (AI) 

One of the most significant benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing is its ability to analyze vast amounts of data in real-time. With Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices and sensors collecting data from machines, equipment and production lines, AI algorithms can quickly process and analyze data to identify patterns and trends, helping manufacturers understand how production processes are performing. 

Companies can also use AI to identify anomalies and equipment defects. Machine learning algorithms, for instance, can be trained to identify patterns in the data and manage decision-making based on those patterns, allowing manufacturers to catch quality issues early in the production process.

Furthermore, AI can help manufacturers implement predictive maintenance systems and processes, streamline supply chain management, and identify and address workplace safety hazards proactively.

How can you harness the power of AI to operationalize sustainability?

3. 3D printing

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a rapidly growing technology that has changed the way companies design, prototype and manufacture products. In smart factories, 3D printing is a popular tool for producing complex parts and components quickly and precisely.

Traditional manufacturing processes, like injection molding, can be limited by the complexity of a prototype’s part geometry, and they may require multiple steps and operations to produce. With 3D printing, manufacturers can produce complex geometries in a single step, reducing manufacturing time and costs.

Additive manufacturing is particularly useful in industries such as aerospace, automotive and healthcare, where complex parts and components are required. This technology also enables manufacturers to produce spare parts on-demand, reducing the need for large inventories and improving supply chain efficiency.

4. Robotics and automation

Robotics and automation have been transforming manufacturing for years now, and this trend is only expected to continue. Robotic process automation has been a key driver of smart manufacturing, with robots taking on repetitive and/or dangerous tasks like assembly, welding and material handling.

Robotics technology can perform repetitive tasks faster and with a much higher degree of accuracy and precision than human workers, improving product quality and reducing defects. Manufacturers can also integrate robotics with Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors and big data analytics to create a more flexible and responsive production environment.

Ultimately, robotic automation can improve system efficiency, reduce errors, decrease equipment downtime and increase worker safety in manufacturing operations. As an added benefit, robots can work around the clock, providing manufacturers with the ability to operate 24/7 and significantly increasing productivity.

5. Sustainable manufacturing

Manufacturing processes often require large amounts of energy and water and can often produce harmful waste and other by-products, so sustainability initiatives are becoming an increasingly important factor in modern manufacturing. Today’s consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever before, and governments continue to implement regulations to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment. As a result, manufacturers are under pressure to mitigate the impacts of climate change by pushing for carbon neutrality and minimizing their carbon footprints.

Companies engaging in sustainable manufacturing aim to reduce waste, conserve resources and minimize the use of harmful substances by using renewable energy sources, adopting circular economy principles and implementing eco-friendly production processes.

Find out how you can create more sustainable operations

6. Servitization

Servitization is a business model that involves moving from selling products to providing services. In the manufacturing industry, servitization involves offering after-sales services—such as maintenance, repair and upgrades—to customers. This model can help manufacturers to build stronger relationships with customers, increase customer loyalty and generate recurring revenue streams.  Servitization also enables manufacturers to differentiate themselves from competitors by offering value-added services that enhance the customer experience. Furthermore, manufacturers can gain valuable insights into their customers’ needs and preferences, which can inform product development and improve customer satisfaction.

7. Reshoring 

Reshoring is the process of bringing manufacturing operations back to their home country from overseas locations. This trend has gained momentum in recent years due to labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, geopolitical risks and rising labor costs in overseas locations. Reshoring can provide several benefits for manufacturing companies, including reduced transportation costs, improved quality control and increased flexibility. Additionally, reshoring can help to create new jobs and support local economies.

8. Extended reality

Extended reality (XR) refers to technologies that merge the physical and digital worlds; for example, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). One of the chief benefits of XR is its ability to improve employee training and education and address worker skills gaps. XR technologies can help manufacturers create immersive training simulations that help employees learn new skills and procedures in a controlled environment. As a result, workers get real-time information and guidance, and companies get more productivity and fewer errors.

On the consumer side, XR can enhance the customer experience by providing virtual product demonstrations and visualizations. It can also help manufacturers design and develop better products for customers since designers can visualize and test products in a virtual environment before they are mass-produced and sent to market.

9. Advanced materials

As manufacturing processes have advanced, so too have manufacturing materials. Advanced materials like composites, ceramics and nanomaterials are becoming the industry norm, as these materials offer increased strength and durability and improved thermal properties when compared to traditional raw materials. Advanced materials have a variety of potential applications, including aerospace, automotive and healthcare manufacturing. Composite materials, for instance, are helping manufacturers produce lightweight and fuel-efficient aircraft, while nanomaterials are being used to develop new medical treatments.

10. Digital twins

Digital twins have become an increasingly popular concept in the world of smart manufacturing. A digital twin—a virtual replica of a physical object or system, equipped with sensors and connected to the internet—can collect data and provide real-time performance insights. In smart factories, digital twins are used to monitor and optimize the performance of manufacturing processes, machines and equipment. 

By collecting sensor data from manufacturing equipment, digital twins can detect anomalies, identify potential problems, improve forecasting capabilities and provide insights into how to optimize production processes. Manufacturers can also use digital twins to simulate scenarios and test configurations before implementing them. 

Explore how you can optimize the performance of your assets in a sustainable way

Keep up with the trends with IBM Maximo Application Suite

Manufacturers that embrace trends and invest in cutting-edge practices and technologies—like IBM Maximo Application Suite—will be well-positioned to compete in the global marketplace in the coming years.

IBM Maximo is an integrated platform that helps manufacturing companies optimize asset performance and streamline day-to-day operations. Using an integrated AI-powered, cloud-based platform, it offers CMMS, EAM and APM capabilities that produce advanced data analytics and help maintenance managers make smarter, more data-driven decisions.

By adopting more sustainable practices and leveraging IBM Maximo’s advanced features and capabilities, manufacturers can help create a more sustainable future for the business, the industry and the planet. 

To find out how, book a live demo with an IBM expert


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