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The Two Forces of Change Pressuring Manufacturing Businesses Right Now

September 21, 2017

It’s no secret that manufacturing is currently undergoing a massive disruption. Products used to be more standardized, demand signals more consistent and predictable, and the underlying supply chains and systems were built accordingly. Efficiency and quality were enough to drive market leadership. But not anymore.

As the world economy has become more interconnected and consumer tastes have become increasingly fickle, demand is more variable and this is driving shorter product cycles and a need to get products to market more quickly. The industry is also seeing new entrants to capitalize on these changes. These new entrants don’t carry the baggage of how things used to be made. Now, in addition to efficiency and quality, agility, customization, and speedy response times are all becoming table stakes for manufacturing leadership.

In addition to these shifts, two external forces of change that are converging, causing you to rethink business and operations strategies:

1. Manufacturing Trends

  • Lot size of one (also known as mass customization)
  • Industrial automation (data generated by shop floor automation)
  • Additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing)

Manufacturing trends are spurred by both innovation and market changes. It’s innovation that enables the data connectivity and collection made possible by industrial automation, giving manufacturers greater shop floor control and automation. The desire for more unique, tailored products means producing to a lot size of one, supported by additive manufacturing via the rapid evolution of 3D printers. Today, additive manufacturing makes product prototyping faster and less expensive, and very soon it will allow for faster production of custom, finished products at scale.

2. Technological Advancements

  • Cloud computing
  • Mobility
  • Analytics
  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

Technology is evolving at the same time. Advancements in cloud computing create single sources of digital truth from what had been disparate records, often paper-based or housed in disconnected server silos across locations. The proliferation of mobile devices in parallel leads to a more untethered workforce that can then access those single sources of truth from anywhere, over any device, making decision-making faster and more accurate. Advances in analytics connect the dots from these massive data repositories to generate meaningful reports, produce tailored real-time views of production, and guide accurate decision making.

Each of these forces present challenges and opportunities. For example, as more unique customer product requests arise, you need to figure out how you’re going to produce products down to a lot size of one with the same speed and quality as high-volume, repetitive manufacturing.

Finally, many of the above come together to both support and propel the IIoT, which effectively is the connectivity of everything to everything in an industrial setting. IIoT is changing how things are getting made, but more broadly IIoT is resulting in an end-to-end ecosystem that is much more communicative and automated. Plainly put, people, data and machines will work in concert like never before for higher levels of efficiency, better predictability, and competitiveness.

The key to your success will be how you to respond to these forces. Simply waiting to see what happens will only put your business farther behind—because manufacturing has already changed. The time to act is now.

Get more insights by downloading the infographic: Smart Manufacturing: Transforming Your Future.

About the Author

Dave Morfas Director of Product Marketing, Plex Systems

Dave Morfas has worked in the high-tech industry for more than 20 years with customers in Europe, Asia Pac, Latin America and North America in a variety of group management, product marketing, and product management roles. Currently Dave serves as Director of Product Marketing for Plex overseeing strategic product direction, competitive intelligence, and content marketing and creation.