- Proactive planning and a digital-first mindset are critical to keeping up with trends in 2023 and beyond.
- Supply chain optimization and attracting talent will continue to be top-of-mind for manufacturers.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) is most likely to transform the manufacturing sector.
Manufacturing has changed dramatically in recent years. Pandemic woes led many manufacturers to shut down operations while others grappled with how to turn out products in a world of unpredictable supply chain disruption.
As a result, new strategies have emerged to solve old and new challenges, from labor shortages to inventory supply.
With 2022 already behind us, the question remains: What trends will continue and what new trends will emerge?
Here are the top trends that will transform manufacturing in 2023 and beyond:
Supply Chain & Logistics Optimization
While supply chain issues are improving, inflation concerns, labor shortages, and logistics challenges are all keeping the supply chain top of mind. In fact, over half of U.S. companies expect the supply chain to remain challenging into 2023.
Because of this, technologies that optimize supply chains and logistics will continue to have a major impact.
In 2023 and beyond, the Association for Supply Chain Management predicts that data collection, advanced analytics, and automation will all be essential to growth.
Our research found similar results: 58% of Digital Inventory Report respondents plan to invest substantially in new inventory technologies.
While many companies already use ERP platforms and barcode software for inventory management, modernization of these technologies continues to be a major strategic push in the drive for expanded capabilities and efficiencies.
Other optimization trends will include:
- Accelerating pace of digitalization
- Supply chain diversification to enhance resilience
- Advanced data collection methodologies
- Utilization of big data for analytics
- Rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning
Each of these trends fosters increased visibility and agility, leading to better planning and execution of supply chain operations. Integration of these systems into current processes will be essential to realizing potential benefits.
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Advanced and Emerging Technology
You can’t talk about advanced technologies without mentioning the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A recent McKinsey study found that Industry 4.0 technologies will create up to $3.7 trillion in value by 2025.
As fundamental elements of the modern “smart factory,” Industry 4.0 technologies already entering the early stages of maturity include:
- Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
- Smart manufacturing materials
- 3D printing (additive manufacturing)
- Digital twins
- Warehouse robotics
The adoption of these technologies ultimately results in high levels of efficiency and security, as well as a more optimal delivery to market. However, benefits can only be realized if the right foundational systems are in place for data collection.
With so many emerging technologies coming into play, integration will also be critical for future success. Integration remains a challenge, however. 47% of respondents in RFgen’s Digital Inventory Report cited integration of multiple systems as a key challenge. A lack of common data platforms and the need to upgrade legacy solutions remain major factors.
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Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Amid such sophisticated trends, one is poised to cause the most disruption: Artificial Intelligence (AI).
AI already plays a major role in manufacturing, generating almost $2 trillion in value for manufacturing and supply chain management operations, according to McKinsey’s Enterprise Value from Digital Factories industry article. A recent Deloitte study found that 93% of companies believe AI will be pivotal in driving growth and innovation in the manufacturing space.
In addition to automating repetitive tasks and optimizing processes, AI is capable of reading and acting upon large amounts of data with minimal human intervention. In terms of cybersecurity, AI provides unparalleled protection.
The recent explosion in the popularity of AI platforms for general consumers will only elevate its use in the commercial sector. Although consumer-based generative AI like Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, or text-based ChatGPT and Google’s competing product, Bard, are still in their infancy, future applications for the supply chain could be rapid and imminent.
Utilizing Big Data
The rise of smart technologies means there is more data than ever before. In fact, Fortune Business Insight projects big data in the manufacturing industry to reach a projected $9.11 billion by 2026.
Big data technology can be used to improve production processes, quality, automated workflows, and more.
According to Deloitte, “traditional approaches to inventory, logistics, pricing, rebates, and network can be reimagined through the application of advanced analytics and technology innovations.”
Forward-thinking manufacturers can harness that data to fuel strategic decision-making about production, sourcing, inventory, and more. A robust mobile inventory system is required to collect accurate data and keep crucial ERP records up to date.
Otherwise, incorrect or low-quality data can have a huge impact on day-to-day operations, leading to delays, work stoppages, and cost overruns.
Coupling data collection best practices with big data will be essential to extending continuity across product lifecycles.
Other technologies like IIoT and AI also help manufacturers streamline data optimization, leveraging big data captured from sensors to enable multiple areas of improvement, such as:
- Efficiency improvements on the shop floor
- More accurate delivery forecasts
- Reduced overhead costs
- Enhanced predictive maintenance
- Automated replenishment thresholds
Attracting Talent and Labor
Manufacturers continue to be impacted by labor shortages. A report by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute found that 2.6 million jobs will be lost over the next few years following a 58% increase in quit levels.
As older generations age out of the workforce, younger generations have yet to be sold on the idea of working in the supply chain.
While some experts believe the labor shortage will begin to ease in 2023, employee expectations have been forever changed. As a result, manufacturers may need to re-examine their hiring strategies.
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Not only will overall compensation and company culture be important, but so will technology.
For Millennials and younger generations, mobile technologies are both intuitive and expected in the workplace. The right mobile barcoding solution, for example, can be used to attract talent, enabling workers to do their jobs more easily, more efficiently, and more safely.
Using mobile apps for inventory management also allows new workers to get up to speed faster, reducing training time by 80% or more.
Now more than ever, manufacturers must focus on finding and retaining skilled workers. Companies that fail to engage employees and retain employees are liable to get left behind.
According to one Gallup survey, a key element for future hires is “the opportunity to do what I do best every day.”
How to Apply 2023’s Biggest Manufacturing Trends
For many, 2023’s challenges are not new. Supply chain issues, hiring challenges, and digital transformation are familiar obstacles. Yet the companies who will move ahead with times are those who can prioritize a digitally based, customer-centric journey.
As emerging technologies become the way of the future, manufacturers must prepare a solid foundation to gain maximum benefit. A powerful mobile data collection platform is needed.
With flawless data collection in place, proactive planning and automated processes will help manufacturers embrace new digital tools for 2023 and beyond.