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Manufacturing Trends for 2015: Is Critical Thinking on Your List?

Posted by admin on January 5, 2015

A recent article on IndustryWeek’s website looked at five manufacturing trends that will shape the market in 2015.  Here is a quick summary:

  1. SMAC Stack' adoption to gain speed – SMAC stands for “social, mobile, analytics and cloud” technologies that are driving higher customer engagement and growth opportunities. SMAC is helping early adopters in the manufacturing market increase efficiencies and change.
  2. Social media to further impact business model innovation. Social media is forcing manufacturers to become more customer-centric. The traditional business-to-business model is becoming outdated because today's connected consumers are better informed and expect products on-demand.
  3. Internet of Things (IoT) will increase automation and job opportunities.  A renewed focus on science and engineering education is cultivating a manufacturing workforce that can manage highly technical systems and allow for greater automation. This frees up employees to put their talents to work on R&D, which is helping to redefine what it means to have a career in manufacturing. In addition, IoT allows for condition-based maintenance, which is driving efficiencies as businesses save on labor and service costs.
  4. Greater capital investment - Though the slow economic recovery continues to hinder expansion and growth opportunities, recent government and industry reports show an uptick in capital investment funding. As manufacturers become focused on capturing value through innovation, original design and speed to market, they are increasing spend for upgrading plant, equipment and technologies.
  5. The emergence of "Next-Shoring” - More companies are shifting their manufacturing strategies from outsourcing overseas to developing products closer to where they will be sold. "Next-shoring," as this tactic has been dubbed, allows manufacturers to increase the speed at which product is replenished on store shelves.

While we can’t argue that these macro trends will have an impact on manufacturing, we found it curious that the article contained little about how the human element impacts or is impacted by these trends.  Other than IoT’s impact on science/engineering education and labor costs, there is barely a mention of people.  But without employees with the critical thinking skills to plan and implement the projects necessary to reap the rewards of these trends, manufacturing companies might find they have only wasted time and fallen further behind in trying to react.

Companies need employees with the skills to assess each of these trends, determine what impact each trend will have on the company, and think about how the company can harness the benefits of the trend or defend against competitors that harness the benefits of the trend.  Clear thinking about the company’s objectives and the most effective course of action to achieve those objectives can prevent disastrous consequences.

Even with effective decision making, plans to capitalize on these trends can be impacted by a lack of thinking about what could go wrong.  Properly assessing possible problems, and developing plans to prevent the problems from occurring and to deal with the issues if they occur are important pieces in effectively taking advantage of a trend.

Companies also need employees who are looking past 2015 because, frankly, 2015 is already cooked.  (We know that is a sad thought so early in the year).  But by the time a company takes the steps necessary to react to these trends, 2015 will be over.  They need to be thinking about the trends that will impact manufacturing in 2020 and 2025.  Yes, we know that strategic thinking has fallen out of favor, but unless someone in the company is thinking about and planning for this, the company will be jumping from one trend to the next always trying to capture some elusive competitive advantage.

The new year is a great time to think about improvements.  Please make sure your employees are part of the equation.