Industry Trends

5 Manufacturing Trends the Industry is Focusing on in 2018

This past year, the manufacturing field spent a lot of time on analysis: looking at how far we’ve come and predicting where we’re headed. But what does these manufacturing trends mean as we conduct business in the new year?

The implementation of digital solutions in the industry was truly revolutionary in 2017, and we will continue to concentrate on how these advancements will grow manufacturing this year. This sustains optimism in the sector: in all four quarters of 2017, a historically high 91.8 percent of manufacturers said they were positive about their own company’s outlook.  

In 2018, your New Year’s resolutions should be expanded to include your professional life. Here are five manufacturing trends we’re going to be focusing on in 2018.

1. Machine data collection

The idea that quality is a component that cannot be measured is a relic of the past. This year, more manufacturers will utilize data science to maximize the efficiency of their machinery, understanding that Industrial Internet of Things solutions benefit production levels.

For one, data trends can display the performance and lifetime value of machines. In fact, 86 percent of end users are collecting at least some kind of machine data to be used for preventative maintenance and to maximize uptime. Examining this data optimizes machine security and longevity within a company’s supply chain.

Manufacturers will continue to invest in data science in the New Year.It has been forecasted the total number of consumer and business connected devices will grow by 11.9 billion in 2018.

2. The skills gap

Sometimes, New Year’s resolutions include mountains we have yet to climb. It should come as no surprise to manufacturers that the skills gap (or the shrinking availability of talent as the field continues to modernize) will remain on our radar in 2018.

The prediction is that over the next decade there will be 3.5 million manufacturing jobs that need to be filled. Of that number, only 1.5 million will be secured, leaving 2 million manufacturing jobs unfilled.

The additional focus on the IIoT and machine data have increased the need for positions like data scientists, which traditionally have not been part of manufacturing. Additionally, skills that manufacturing executives agree are in dire need include basic technical skills, problem-solving skills, as well as math and computer skills.

3. Consumer demand for sustainability

Whether or not your manufacturing company itself is especially concerned with product sustainability, soon it won’t have a choice. Sustainability becomes a grounds for competition between businesses.

“There’s been an explosion of demand from consumers to know where their products are originating,” Sue Welch, Bamboo Rose CEO, reports.

In 2018, being sustainable will include being able to report about product information in a credible way. For manufacturers, this means investing in methods that accurately report on supply chain processes to consumers. The most successful businesses will be the most transparent ones.

One area for potential sustainable improvement is product packaging. Dell’s product packages, for example,  are zero waste. Instead of usual materials, the company uses mushroom bioscience to make a container that is organic and biodegradable.

4. Manufacturing jobs

As manufacturers begin focusing on the potential of IIoT solutions to grow the market, there is the question of whether or not an investment in automation will replace labor, therefore causing layoffs in the industry. Many businesses maintain that they simply look to use automation to optimize menial labor tasks, leaving human workers to do more cognitive and strategic tasks.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act recently signed by President Donald Trump is set up so that companies will save at least 20 percent by buying new equipment. In other words, it may actually be cost effective for some businesses to reduce their labor force.

However, this is likely to vary by business, most companies are not looking to eliminate their labor force; it was reported that 68 percent of companies created new jobs after increasing automation.

5. Labor safety

Manufacturing, alongside forestry, agriculture and construction, continues to be recognized by OSHA as high risk, meaning that the rate of work-related injuries and illnesses is greater compared to other industries. Manufacturers will want to continue to set a high standard for safety going into 2018, requiring all workers to take proper precautions and remain informed.

Part of labor safety is taking steps to prevent common trip and fall injuries that occur in the workplace. These include installing up-to-date LED lighting, identifying wet floor areas, and encouraging teamwork to lift heavy objects.

Additionally, OSHA will continue to revise its Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule in the New Year, which went into effect December 2017. The rule digitizes the process of injury/illness record keeping and regulates businesses based on which industry they operate in, and how many employees they have.

Manufacturing trends in 2018: What’s next?

What are some of the factors in manufacturing your company is focusing on in 2018? What are your thoughts on these five manufacturing trends? Let us know by connecting with us on Twitter @AppleRubber.