The manufacturing sector is entering its fourth industrial revolution, one that foresees faster product cycle times, augmented control over operations, amplified cost savings, and improved customer experience. More than 200 years after the steam engine powered the first Industrial Revolution, these are the 10 technologies and innovations that are ushering major changes in manufacturing:
#1 Business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C)
B2B2C is a business approach that combines the traditional business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) models. It means that instead of reaching out directly to its intended customers, a business (B1) sells its product or service to another business (B2) so that eventually, B2’s consumers also become customers of B1. This model connects manufacturers directly with consumers, allowing them to market their brand more effectively and earn more from their products and services.
#2 Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems
An ERP system automates many of your business’s back-office functions and integrates them into a single, user-friendly interface. It reduces errors and redundancies in your operations, augmenting the efficiency of your process, the accuracy of your records, and the value of your decisions. An ERP system also allows you to save more money.
#3 Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT refers to the interconnection of unique devices through an internet-based network, using technologies like sensors and cloud computing. Nowadays, manufacturing companies combine IoT with other innovations, such as virtual reality, to accurately manage their inventory, evaluate the quality of their products, and even enhance the safety of their workers.
#4 3D printing
With 3D printing, manufacturers can produce products — even those with complex designs and shapes — more quickly and using fewer resources. You can also use it to build cheap prototypes that you can use to test and troubleshoot your products before they are distributed to your consumers.
#5 Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)
To test a product for issues, manufacturers have to produce an initial sample of it. This practice, although effective, was not only costly but also very time-consuming. Manufacturers are now combining AR and VR with computer-assisted design (CAD) to identify errors in a product’s design before it is modeled and manufactured. This reduces the errors and the amount of time it takes to complete a product.
#6 Big data
The information collected using IoT and stored in the cloud contributes to what is called big data. Using various tools, manufacturers analyze and process big data to achieve a thorough understanding of their business, optimize their operations, anticipate and resolve problems, and improve production.
#7 Supply chain management (SCM)
If you want to deliver products to your customers faster and more efficiently, closely examine the supply chain. You can use a variety of powerful tools to answer your manufacturing needs in different areas, such as procurement, business intelligence, logistics optimization, and product life cycle management, among others. With SCM tools, not only will you have better visibility over your operations, but you’ll also be able to reduce costs and satisfy more customers.
Factors like increasing wages in popular offshoring destinations and rising transportation costs are encouraging manufacturing companies to bring their operations back to the United States. Developments in fields like robotics and automation are also reducing the need for cheap labor, which was the main reason offshoring became popular to begin with.
#9 Predictive maintenance
In business, downtime is usually money down the drain. Predictive maintenance programs monitor your machinery and evaluate their performance based on specific metrics, letting you know when your equipment is performing optimally and when they need repairs. This technology lowers maintenance costs, reduces downtime, and extends the life of your machinery by several years.
#10 Tech-savvy employees
Machines and software may be more high-tech than they’ve ever been, but they still require people who will operate them. Unfortunately, there may not be enough tech-savvy individuals in the job pool who possess the skills you need. Manufacturers are remedying this problem by training their existing employees to take on more technical responsibilities. Alternatively, you can also try to find ways to make your company more appealing to highly skilled professionals, such as data scientists, app developers, and computer coders.
With the newest industrial revolution, the manufacturing sector is turning to technology to cope with a rapidly changing world. As a business leader, the last thing you’d want is for your company to be left behind by your competitors. Stay on top by investing in the right innovations for your business. Contact us today to learn how!