The last two years have resulted in many changes in every economic sector across the globe. This is especially true for the manufacturing industry.
Many of the changes had already been implemented before the start of the pandemic. Thanks to the pandemic, many of these are being used to great effect. These changes have been kicked into high gear due to factors such as instability in the supply chain, high demand for products and changing customer needs.
Green Trends to Watch for in 2022
1. Smart digital thread
Big manufacturers have adopted IoT and IIoT to kickstart smart manufacturing practices. These ‘digital threads’ play a key role in improving operational efficiencies, improve product quality and in turn brand loyalty. Companies are now soliciting customer inputs to enhance customer experience with innovations and design changes suggested by end users. Developing comprehensive digital threads will not only result in green manufacturing practices but quality products as well. This is possible thanks to secure digital platform connectivity.
Manufacturers are also paying close attention to sustainability as well. Sustainability via environmental, social and governance policies are no longer just watchwords. Companies are investing in scalable technologies to improve their manufacturing process to reduce resource use while producing less waste.
3. More onshore manufacturing
To save costs, sourcing supplies for manufacturing was outsourced to China and other countries. The pandemic has disrupted the supply chain and there is no clear idea when the supply chain will be reset to the pre-pandemic level. Using supplies made in-country will create more jobs and reduce dependence on foreign sources while reducing shipping costs. This is going to take precedence in 2022.
4. Shifting focus from B2B format to B2C
Manufacturers are now focusing more on B2C to offer the end customer lower priced goods and to maintain brand control. Manufacturers have lots of factors to focus on with customer experience quality in mind.
5. 3D Printing
Also called additive manufacturing, 3D printing is going to be a big thing in 2022. Some of the benefits offered by this method are freedom to design, customized products and products which perform better. This type of manufacturing promotes affordable prices, sustainable process and most important of all, a shorter time to market. This process is being actively used in the automotive and aerospace sectors.
6. Increased use of automation
Automation has been in use for a while in a few industries with PID controllers and PLCs. Wit the availability of fast computers and many specialized software packages, automation has stepped in to fill the void from worker shortages. Automated processes are now in use not just on the factory floor but also in the back office. Technology and smart machines are helping with good decision making, product quality and consistency.
7. Predictive maintenance
Technology and automation are again filling a gap and eliminating guesswork. Predictive maintenance programs track issues and inform managers of problems in the manufacturing process. Scheduled maintenance of machinery and parts replacement is also done so that there is very little downtime. This results in major costs savings which can then be passed on to the end user. Digital transformation is the way to implement this and other such programs.
8. Workplace talent
The adoption of automation and other technologies in manufacturing means that the workforce must be technologically competent. Tech heavy industries like automotive and aerospace will need access to a talent pool which is familiar with current practices. Many companies are working with vocational schools so that they have the right people on the job.
Much of the change in manufacturing is driven by consumer input these days. End users want to know how their items were manufactured and what materials were used. With a spike in energy and raw material costs, companies must also deal with environmental and other regulations.
Consumers are driving the change towards sustainability and companies are taking their social responsibility seriously. Fortunately, technology is helping to make a lot of these decisions and changes possible. Manufacturers are keenly aware of the connection between their brand image, manufacturing practices and profits.
Access to technologies like AI, robotics and blockchain will fundamentally shift the way products are made.