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Top Manufacturing Trends to Watch in 2014 and Beyond

Posted by Allan Peiser, CPA on Jul 31, 2014 9:00:46 AM

Manufacturing in the United States continues to gain momentum. Critical factors such as the shrinking gap between wages in the United States versus those in foreign countries, the increase in overseas supply chain costs and the availability of a stable, lower cost energy supply are all driving manufacturing growth at home.

 2014 has brought some interesting developments that will drive domestic manufacturing to an internationally competitive position. As your company reviews its strategic plans, be mindful of these industry trends:

1. Big Data in Manufacturing
The unprecedented amount of data collected on consumers is staggering. Manufacturers who can process, interpret, analyze, and apply that information will be light years ahead of their competitors.  Big Data what is the consumer behavior, what will it be and understand consumer sentiment to make accurate real-time decisions and corrective actions, forecasts and scenarios to help serve consumers and retail customers. Generate new revenue streams, enhance product or services with customer insight, improve human capital management, garner greater loyality with customer insight, more effectively manage assets, increase operational  efficiencies, more effectively manage suppliers, mitigate risk. (2013 IDC Global Technology

According to IDC Manufacturing Insights, Create more accurate demand forecasts, increase insight from social engagement, strengthen brands and customer loyalty, increase performance as shelf and in store, improve fulfillment execution, and optimize trade promotions.

2. The Industrial Internet.
More and more, manufacturers are building smart components, such as sensors, cameras, and Internet connectivity, into their machinery. These components generate an enormous amount of data, providing deep analytics which helps them operate more with more predictability and efficiency. According to the National Center for The Middle Market, “When that predictability is spread across whole fleets of locomotives, airplanes, and other machines - or across entire systems like hospitals and power grids - the resulting asset and system optimization unleashes huge productivity gains, cost reductions, and profit growth. And, perhaps more importantly, optimization unleashes product innovation on a scale that …will be revolutionary.”

3. The rise of the robot and drone.
The age of the drone and the smart robot is upon us. Due to advances in data technology, businesses have begun to invest in robots and drones in their warehouses, distribution centers and on their manufacturing floors.  Google and Amazon have both invested in robotic and drone technology: Amazon is experimenting with a drone-powered delivery system; Apple has taken a vested interest in creating next-generation robots to manufacture Apple's next generation of iProducts. The manufacturing industry would be wise to monitor the actions of Google, Amazon and Apple in regards to robotic and drone technology, since these companies set the standard for innovation.

4. 3-D Printing to create prototypes
3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, is gaining momentum and manufacturers need to keep up. Using this technology can help manufacturers create prototypes more quickly and efficiency, and bring items to market in record time. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, instead of manufacturing products at large, centralized factories, prototypes and products can be created on a smaller scale, closer to where they are to be sold – saving time and money.

These are but a few of the areas to watch in 2014 and beyond. Other significant trends include  re-shoring and manufacturing advocacy. Keeping abreast of these developments and others on the horizon helps keep your manufacturing operation competitive and on the leading edge.

For more information on this topic, contact our manufacturing team at 9721-818-5300.

Note: This content is accurate as of the date published above and is subject to change. Please seek professional advice before acting on any matter contained in this article.

Topics: Manufacturing