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2020 in Review: Next Year in Smart Manufacturing

2020 has been a challenging year for the electronics and medical device manufacturing industry, due to COVID-19 as well as global trade relations and the ever changing trade rules.  

However, this has also been a year of great opportunity for manufacturing!

We have seen companies facing these challenges quickly overcome and adapt due to digitization of their manufacturing operations.  This digitization enabled rapid change decision making, with the ability to redistribute supply chain and manufacturing efforts in order to adapt.  

Even further, our customers increased their manufacturing capacity by winning new product lines, due to their ability to quickly ramp up with systems in place to ensure control and monitoring of NPI (new product introduction) to high volume transition, in real-time from anywhere in the world.  

This digitization capability was prescient amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, by enabling management and engineering functions to be completely offsite, with the right tools enabling continuous improvements to product line yield performance, cost reduction, and delivery of accurate projections.

Intraratio is honored to be a core innovator and driver of Industry 4.0.  Factory automation and data capture are becoming standard across all automotive, medical, fiber / cable communications, aerospace, space and military industries.  

Industry 4.0 and Industrial IoT is continuing to mold the entire manufacturing realm.

That said, surprisingly, the level and speed of adoption globally is still low. According to the Forrester annual report predictions, out of the manufacturers aware of Industry 4.0, less than 5% are at the implementation stage of their Industry 4.0 journey. We believe the cause for such a low adoption rate consists of several factors: the lack of information surrounding Industry 4.0 and related Industrial IoT technologies. The other factors include technology integration, required strategic planning, and informed mitigation of business risk. Most manufacturers are unaware that results are not visible simply after new technology is integrated without completely restructuring your entire facility to be Industry 4.0-ready.

Check out our 4 steps to Digitize Your Operations blog.

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, let's recap how 2020 has impacted Smart Manufacturing and what trends to look for in 2021.

COVID-19 Adaptations

Despite the low adoption rate of Industry 4.0 across factory lines, overall digital adoption levels have reached new heights with several emerging technologies at the forefront due to the coronavirus pandemic. This includes augmented reality(AR) headsets used to decrease the time to access information in the production environment, rapid 3D printing of protective equipment, and remote support to assist engineers with guiding customers through remote maintenance tasks.

Source: How COVID-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point—and transformed business forever

It is forecasted that all of these implemented technologies due to COVID-19 are here to stay as operations track the effectiveness of remote support, safer work environments (Outfitted to reflect health and hygiene requirements), and customer preferences for remote interactions. The effects of this new digital norm are different between sectors with and without physical products in comparison to B2B and B2C companies. According to a recent survey of executives conducted by McKinsey & Company, respondents in consumer packaged goods (CPG) and automotive and assembly, for example, report relatively low levels of change in their digital-product portfolios. By contrast, the reported increases are much more significant in healthcare and pharma, financial services, and professional services, where executives report a jump nearly twice as large as those reported in CPG companies.

Now that companies have realized how quickly operations can be converted into a cloud-based environment, we predict that the adoption of Industry 4.0 will increase in 2021 and beyond.

Smart Manufacturing Predictions for 2021

Companies will invest heavily in technologically savvy workers.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation will continue to play a crucial role in the manufacturing world, which entails that factory workers with technology skills will be in high demand as we enter the new year.

In 2021, manufacturers will be required to determine a clear manufacturing process and data collection strategy to stay ahead of the competition. The first quarter of the new year would be the ideal time to review current technologies and/or invest in an intuitive manufacturing execution system (MES) and yield management software to not only automate your current processes but review shop floor analytics, personnel training solutions, performance analysis dashboards, and reinforcement continuous learning. This is detrimental for scaling industrial practices and fostering innovation.

The increased benefit is the number of jobs generated from the global shortage of the employees required to make these new technologies a reality for manufacturing companies.

Supply chains will develop into collaborative networks.

The Forrester report prediction that extends through 2021 and into 2022 supports that supply chains will have become more resilient by manufacturers collecting data, businesses investing in logistics operation centers, the rise of industry marketplaces, and the proliferation of supplier trust networks.

During the early days of COVID-19, industry leaders have realized that resiliency is more important than ever. Manufacturers must learn to align data and collaborate with customers & suppliers across multiple networks.

Data transparency will serve as protection to multiple brands.

In 2021, concerns around security and safety, the rise of localization, and nationalist sentiment will extend this trend to core manufacturing sectors. This increases the demand for manufacturers to track all factory operations from production input/output components, materials, and data they use and the full transparency of sharing it with customers.

Operational leaders must effectively manage this influx of data while protecting it from misuse and ensuring customers get the necessary metrics demanded.

Proactive strategies will replace reactive measures.

Reactive recovery is always an essential part of any business strategy; however, it is short term. The coronavirus pandemic shed new light on the importance of taking proactive measures when developing a disaster plan. Forrester predicts that 20% of businesses will replace disaster recovery with resilience strategies in 2021. The majority of plans include the ability to run, manage, and track production floors remotely. As mentioned, the process will require investments in smart manufacturing equipment and networking technology, generating an influx of projects and crucial tracking of MES ROI.

The Takeaway

  • Manufacturing leaders should get ahead of the curve by creating a strong resiliency plan and converting most operations to a cloud-based platform.
  • The rise of Artificial Intelligence and automation will continue, and brands will need to implement new technologies to stay ahead of the competition.
  • Data is key. Companies should become data-centric in all aspects of operations to measure the ROI of their current processes enabling them to make data-driven decisions and improvements.

We're excited to see the advances in smart manufacturing that 2021 offers and will continue to stay at the forefront of innovation.