Manufacturing Executive has published an article highlighting the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s predictions for the next decade of manufacturing. The council, which is an invitation-only network of executives who work to design and shape a better future for manufacturers around the world, noted five different areas of change.
- Factory Network Models
- Key Technologies
- Energy Sources
- Design/Production Digitization
While the changes in these five areas largely reflects how our world is changing in terms of education, energy production and technology.
Currently, the majority of manufacturing executives (39%) favor having a few large factories that produce for the global market rather than have a network of many small factories. This trend is expected to continue through the next decade, although the gap between those who favor large factories to those who favor small is expected to shrink. Only 31% of manufacturers are expected to follow the model of large factories.
The reason for favoring large factories may, in large part, be due to technological advances that make it easier to keep track of every important section and measurement in a factory. Intelligent technologies, which allow for simplified conversion of data into usable information, predictive alarming and the fine tuning of every factory compensate, are a key technology in the optimization of the plant. These technologies, when first installed, can result in large monetary savings since they can regulate energy consumption based on demand.
Energy itself is also expected to see a change in the future. More than 90% of factories currently use electricity from the electric grid. In a decade, that number is expected to drop to 84% as manufacturing executives continue to incorporate more and more renewable sources of energy into their factories. Wind energy, in particular, is expected to make a big impact. While only 7% use this source today, in 10 years, it is expected that 97% of manufacturers will be incorporating the renewable source into their energy usage.
New technology also plays a part in the further digitization of the design and production process. While only 13% of manufacturers have completely digitized these processes, in a mere 10 years, 53% are expected to have completely digitized design and productions processes. Digital manufacturing allows the transfer of relevant product information between design and manufacturing groups in a plant. This kind of technology can be a huge asset in the optimization and profitability of a plant.
With all the new technology swirling around, a future of growth and development can be seen for manufacturing. The one wrench in the machine is related to the skilled workforce, or the lack thereof. Manufacturing executives cited finding skilled workers as their biggest challenge to success in the future. It is a bit ironic, considering there is plenty of news about how difficult it is to find a job. The Manufacturing Leadership Council has created a group dedicated to this issue. Just like other industries, attaining a skilled workforce means getting involved with high school and college students, making sure they know the opportunities that await them in manufacturing.
Regardless of the challenges that await the manufacturing industry, most numbers point towards a growing, high-tech and energy conscious future, with the continued growth of technology at the forefront of change.