News & Trends Impacting Manufacturing
The Myth of the Summer Slowdown
Manufacturers have long believed that buyers also ramp down during the summer. Though that was true in the past, in today's digital-driven, ultra-competitive global supply chain, procurement teams can't afford to take any time off. In fact, data on the buying activity on the Thomas Network at Thomasnet.com finds that activity not only holds steady during the summer months, but it actually increases relative to activity for the rest of the year.
—Jay Scheer, Thomas
Bringing Jobs Back to the U.S.
Keeping in mind the U.S. trade deficit of $500 billion, an estimated 3 to 4 million manufacturing jobs can still return to domestic soil. Here's why, according to Reshoring Initiative:
- The "Made in the USA" brand value is increasing. Buyers are increasingly well-informed; many don't like the idea of supporting factories that exploit the workforce in developing nations, while other consumers seek out U.S.-made goods in the name of patriotism. To meet customers' shifting demands, many retail giants, such as Walmart, have decided to stock and prioritize the sale of all-American goods.
- Wages in developing countries are rising. And navigating delivery times and taxes in these regions can be extremely challenging. In many instances, it's more affordable to use additive or automated manufacturing technologies on domestic soil than it is to recruit and maintain an increasingly expensive workforce offshore.
- Companies from countries such as Germany, where brand USA holds less appeal, are coming forth with significant foreign direct investments, availing themselves of lucrative tax benefits and government incentives.
5 Trends to Watch
1. The Internet of Things (IoT). One of the biggest challenges manufacturers face today is determining how best to implement IoT to achieve operational goals such as reducing costs, improving efficiency, increasing safety, supporting compliance, or spurring product innovation.
2. Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0, or smart manufacturing, is a trend on the rise, but manufacturers must be committed to identifying critical business needs when looking to adopt technology, building organizational capability and actively adapting processes and culture over time. It does no good to invest in technology without a framework in place to take advantage of the efficiencies Industry 4.0 provides.
3. Additive Manufacturing. From its humble beginnings as a plastic prototyping process, additive manufacturing has steadily grown and developed over the past 30 years or so. As a trend, it's here to stay. Now all manufacturers need to do is figure out how to use the technology to best meet their individual business needs.
4. Automation. Groundbreaking advancements in technology are propelling manufacturing into a new age of automation. Robotics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are poised to disrupt the industry for years to come, and the continued evolution of these technologies will shape manufacturing's long-term future.
5. Augmented Reality. The concept of augmented reality (AR) is nothing new, but the technology is still in its earliest stages and its potential impacts on the manufacturing industry have yet to be realized. Possible applications include complex assembly, maintenance, expert support, quality assurance, and automation. Experts suggest the industry has only begun to scratch the surface for what AR can do.
—The Association of Equipment Manufacturers