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Manufacturing Trends 2014: Top 6 Predictions

Manufacturing Trends 2014 Top 6 Predictions The new intelligent manufacturing trends which are expected to gain momentum
With the ever-aware digital consumer insisting on better products, personalisation and customisation, greater choice, more flexibility, and faster delivery, enterprises are grappling with intense competition in a tough economic environment to fill this tall order. Organisations are increasingly achieving success in this quest with intelligent manufacturing, which is enabled by information and communication technology (ICT) and that is proving to be a global game-changer.
Although the impression is that ICT integration is a time- and cost-intensive exercise, it is proving transformational through flexible production and made-to-order products, value addition enabled by intelligent supply chain management, and end-to-end management of product design and lifecycle.The new intelligent manufacturing paradigm is revealing some interesting trends which are expected to gain momentum. Some of these are the emergence of the plug-and-play factory, enterprise mobility solutions, the industrial Internet, 3D printing, greater impact of social media, and new business models.
Let’s examine each of these a little more closely.
Trend 1Plug-and-play factory and predictive asset analyticsWith factories fast evolving into increasingly complex, expensive and distributed operations, enabling technologies such as the flexible factory and predictive asset analytics are helping enterprises address not merely the competition but also sustainability related issues.
The plug-and-play factory: The ‘flexible factory’ or ‘plug-and-play factory’ is fully automated with standardised plug-and-play components and distributed controls, and is quickly and easily reconfigurable. Given the growing power of the digital consumer, manufacturers with such facilities will be ahead of the curve.
Predictive asset analytics: This takes the manufacturing game to the next level from real-time information and intelligence on the state of machines. Enabled by the explosion of big data, these sophisticated technology solutions catch signs of machine wear or breakdown early, thereby giving manufacturers a head start in making repairs before any real damage is done. The benefits include greater productivity, less downtime and reduced costs of equipment and spares.
Trend 2 The rise of enterprise mobility solutionsAlong with the digital consumer, it is the mobile workforce that has emerged as a key change driver. With the emergence of more manufacturing-specific applications and consumer devices like tablets and smartphones making their presence felt on the shop floor, manufacturers are investing in enterprise mobility solutions. This trend has been steadily gaining ground and can only grow further as traditional organisations understand the importance of mobility to business growth.
Trend 3Industrial Internet Once unthinkable, the revolutionising vision of industrial Internet that connects two divergent technological eras – the industrial and the Internet – is fast turning into reality. While analysts’ projected productivity gains of over $15 trillion may take some time to materialise, new technologies in sensors, visual interfaces, connected devices, and analytics are rapidly bridging the divide.
As part of this trend, the industry is witnessing the development of new products and services that are transforming the way we live, commute and work.
Connected cars: With almost every aspect of the digital consumer’s life improved by connected devices, the automobile too had to get smarter. Although driverless cars aren’t in showrooms yet, today’s connected vehicle (using telematics) is enabled by the convergence of wireless communication, GPS location technology, navigation services, embedded safety and security-based electronics, infotainment media providers, concierge services, software-based personalisation, social media influence, remote control/notification and remote diagnostics technologies.
Digital aviation: These services help in providing developments in travel experiences in the future such as personalisation, self-service airport, and green flying, and these are all being mega industry trends in play (and they have been in play for a long time, more than 5 years in the market and will continue to do so for next 10 years).
Smart machines: With the proliferation of contextually aware, intelligent personal assistants, smart advisors (such as IBM Watson), advanced global industrial systems, and early examples of autonomous vehicles, the smart machine era will perhaps be the most disruptive in the history of IT and manufacturing.
Trend 4Additive manufacturing or 3D printing Additive manufacturing is expected to reshape the future of manufacturing through improved designs, streamlined prototyping and short-run manufacturing. Popularly known as 3D printing, it has been hailed as the catalyst of ‘the third industrial revolution’. Experts believe 3D printing has the potential to revolutionise the way we manufacture almost anything.
Trend 5Manufacturing gets socialSocial media today means business and not just in the service industry. Manufacturers are increasingly looking at leveraging social media for access to expertise, business insights and new product ideas. The primary driver for making manufacturing social is to build collaborative business processes with quick, easy access to expertise. The growing thirst for information and the willingness of users to share it with their connections are driving the use of social media in manufacturing.
Trend 6 Birth of new manufacturing modelsEven as these trends are transforming manufacturing, enterprises are moving to a more service-oriented business model even as they take production closer to end markets.
As global organisations build closer relationships with customers, the latter are expecting more of manufacturers owing to advances in technology. This has led to the evolution of a more service-oriented business model. If newer and better products were vital for business growth up until now, customised products or ‘solutions’ are the way forward.
The emerging ‘manuservice’ model: Under this new emerging model after-market services takes a new leap: the shift now is that these are being bundled together with product sales and the service is more important. The value proposition will hold the key to success as tighter cost control and shift of manufacturers from core markets gathers pace.
Nearshoring: To be able to provide customised solutions to customers quickly and cost-efficiently, companies are increasingly moving their manufacturing operations nearer to their markets. Manufacturers see ‘nearshoring’ as a model that can help them improve agility, reduce lead times, manage risk better, streamline information flow, and reduce the total cost.
Authored by—Jeff Kavanaugh, Practice Leader, High-Tech and Manufacturing, Management Consulting Services, Infosys.

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