Throughout this past year, we have been observing various trends in a variety of verticals across the manufacturing industry. We have published a bunch of posts regarding trends we see in oil and gas equipment manufacturing, metal fabrication, mechanical engineering and agricultural equipment manufacturing.
Below are four predictions and observations we have for the manufacturing industry in 2014.
Technological advances will force manufacturers to adapt.
As we alluded to back in December, the pace of technology has accelerated and will continue to ramp up in 2014. With new designs, tools, customization options and technology being released and implemented on a consistent basis, manufacturers (particularly manufacturing engineers) must adopt new skills to keep up.
Mobile commerce and 3D printing are just two examples of technology-driven initiatives that will be important to the manufacturing industry as a whole. Emails, social presence and optimized websites will all become “must haves” across the board. 3D printing will be more commonly used to save money during the manufacturing process.
Those manufacturers who adapt and adopt new processes will survive and grab a hold of the market share, while those that won’t run the risk of falling behind.
It’s certainly an exciting time to be in manufacturing, and keeping up with tech advances will take your business to the next level.
Product lifecycles will continue to shorten.
Technology and innovation have caused new designs and new production possibilities to be made available faster. Philosophies such as lean manufacturing and agile product lifecycle management are on the rise.
Savvy product life cycle management (PLM) strategies will become increasingly important, innovation-based, and customer-focused. PLM initiatives will most likely focus heavily on value realization.
Effective PLM encompasses everything from concept and design, to production and testing, to the sale, service and disposal of a product. If you are an efficient, agile manufacturer, you have the ability to adapt quickly to production demands and short windows of opportunity, without losing efficiency.
Value-add services will create a competitive advantage for products.
Manufactured products can often become commodities subject to the all-too-familiar phrase, “just send me a quote.” Traditionally, even the most unique, customizable parts are prone to the pitfalls associated with a highly competitive, price-driven industry.
However, according to an IDC Manufacturing Insights White Paper, approximately “20% of metal fabrication manufacturers that are aware that the single most critical factor driving new purchases is how value-added services are delivered and supported, including R&D services and configurable, customized, or engineering-to-order products.”
Value-added services such as proactive part analysis and conceptual part engineering are becoming more sought after in manufacturing today. Customers want more from their contract manufacturers than producing the same product over and over again. Every company must strive for peak efficiency, and a proactive, value-add approach is the way to stay competitive.
Operational resiliency will be the focus of supply chain strategies.
If demand is hard to forecast, then agility and flexibility will be key. If a manufacturer has a very mature, seasoned supply chain with a customer demand profile that has little variation, then stability is key.
Technology and consumer needs are evolving as we speak. Purchasers will have to react quickly to evolving market conditions and keep a steady flow of parts without running into a shortage or surplus.
Contract manufacturing, because of its long-term commitment with a more comprehensive approach, has the potential to create a more stable supply chain.
For more on emerging trends and future challenges facing design engineers, download The Modern Engineer’s Guide to Getting It Done [Free ebook].
Good luck out there. We’re looking forward to a great 2014!
Photo Credit: American Roll Form