Top 5 industrial trends

Sept. 17, 2014
Every plant manager should know about robotics, changing safety issues, 3D printing, reshoring, and new maintenance needs.

As one of the strongest drivers behind the economic recovery, manufacturing and industrial jobs are at the center of a changing economy. After decades of slow change and even decline, industry is now evolving to meet new global demands and new realities. The plants and facilities that stay ahead of emerging trends will undoubtedly lead from the front.

1. The robotic revolution reality

Jobs are becoming automated to cut labor costs, reduce human-related error, and increase production rates that are behind the current manufacturing boom. So what does this mean for the workforce?

The introduction of robots into warehouses and manufacturing could mean an increase in jobs. The key to succeeding is making the transition from the old business model to the new. Industry is employing more robots and technologies. A new class is in session: How to equip your company to thrive in the era of robots.

2. New technology means more tech maintenance

The same robots and technologies have needs. They need upkeep, they need repair, and they need upgrades. The new manufacturing world is itself giving rise to a new breed of engineers and computer experts. It’s an industry manufacturers must understand well, as these are the people with whom they will work closely.

Many of the companies that sell new technology, such as IBM, are positioning themselves among manufacturers as the one-stop-shop technology service provider. For example, many computer companies profit more from product services than they do from the actual products themselves. The built-in demand for IT support means guaranteed new business for technology companies resulting in growing business expenses for the manufacturing companies.

Technology’s role in the future is worth considering as business plans are being formulated. Adapt, learn, and, last but certainly not least, build relationships with those fluent in the field of robot technology.

3. 3D printing is reshaping manufacturing

You’ve likely followed the growing trend of 3D printing, but now it’s accelerating. As the technology becomes more affordable, and as we find new uses for it, it’s largely good news for manufacturing and industry as a whole.

Customer demands and expectations are changing and growing. With that comes the need to implement the technology that will help to meet those needs. Investing in 3D printing technology is now becoming the norm for many sectors. Business owners who are looking to distinguish themselves as leaders in their industry should begin investing in 3D printing while facilities managers should begin learning how to run efficient operations that use this technology.

4. Workers are taking on greater loads

One of the biggest and likely lasting changes to come out of the Great Recession is that industrial companies have learned to do more with less. Workloads have increased significantly. Multitasking is now the industry standard for many workers. As a consequence, safety standards are constantly changing. Not long ago skilled workers needed only to be mindful of the safety risks associated with one specific job. These workers now must be aware of safety and troubleshooting for a much wider range of tasks.

Facility safety managers must be sure that a plant or warehouse is complying with safety regulations, and they have to be sure that employees are informed. Also, it is important to stay current on worker compensation laws, as the fallout from increased workloads is still largely unknown.

5. Outsourcing isn’t as cost-efficient as it once was

Jerry Matos is product specialist at Cherry’s Industrial Equipment.

The 2000s rule of thumb was that if you wanted it made more affordably, operations must take place overseas. In a trend known as reshoring, businesses are coming back to America. It’s partly the result of local customers wanting more immediate control over what’s being built. Add to that the rising costs of manufacturing abroad as international labor regulations evolve. Simultaneously, shipping costs and wages are increasing.

As it makes less sense to send products overseas, many companies are rushing back. It’s changing the U.S. manufacturing industry by increasing local competition, forcing manufacturers to find new efficiencies to offset the costs of bringing operations home, and driving manufacturers to innovate to maintain an edge with local customers.

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