The hardships of 2020 birthed a wave of industry change that came in kicking and screaming. Now that we’ve seen how that change can improve processes, we have not only embraced it, but we’re anticipating what it will do next. Over the next year, a combination of shifting consumer demand and evolving technological innovations will steer manufacturing down roads that, thanks to the Coronavirus, we didn’t even see coming. In this article, we’ll look at the most anticipated manufacturing trends 2021.
Top Manufacturing Trends 2021
Enhanced Tech Agility
A rocky 2020 gifted us a renewed appreciation for adaptability. Business leaders across the globe learned that when productivity is threatened, leveraging technology to pivot quickly can save you from ruin. As a result, manufacturing will be embracing digital transformation like never before. A recent Deloitte survey of manufacturing executives found that 76% plan to bolster investments in digital transformation. But what digital investments will dominate in 2021? Smart leaders will be looking to fully leverage existing technology through upgrades such as augmenting ERPs to fill gaps in functionality or retrofitting legacy equipment with new sensors to increase flexibility.
The top manufacturing trend 2021? Leveraging the agility COVID-19 forced upon us at the beginning of the year to make lasting and impactful improvements to processes.
The most critical existing technology yet to be widely mastered is edge computing. Industry 4.0 technology opened up a data fire hose, creating a new challenge of quickly turning data into advancements and actionable insights. Cloud computing bridled this beast, but with the cloud comes latency. The future will pull computing out of the sky and back onto the factory floor with lightning-fast edge computing. If a motor, pump, or generator sensor detects a problem, adjustments can be made immediately. 2021 will see companies fine-tuning their mix of edge and cloud, using edge computing to power autonomous decision-making and other time-sensitive tasks.
Another revolutionary technology we’ll see used in new ways is 3D printing. The next year will see a surge in metal 3D printing for tooling components. More companies will consider adding this ability in-house to realize several benefits at once:
- Matching prototype and end product material
- Bypassing third-party manufacturing
- Gaining time for effective design iteration.
Throughout 2021, Industry 4.0 technology will be optimized in exciting new ways.
Upgraded Capabilities for Remote and AR Simulation
Many of the social distancing challenges presented by 2020 were solved with innovative remote technologies. On top of offering safer work environments, remote tech also provides superior efficiency. Adding in new AR capabilities, 2021 will use remote and virtual tools to their fullest potential:
- Maintenance assistance: Diagnostics experts will increase the use of AR-enabled devices to connect remotely and securely, troubleshoot issues, and even guide repairs. Companies operating more than one plant can look to centralizing maintenance personnel. With AR, even certain process engineering and data management functions can be performed remotely.
- Agile training with experts: Say goodbye to huddling around one shared piece of equipment or waiting patiently for a mobile training team to arrive. AR gives workers the power to have a 3D replica right in front of them to explore.
- Endless possibilities with digital twins: Deloitte asked manufacturing execs which tech investment would be most important to them out of the various manufacturing trends 2021—nearly a quarter said, digital twins. Digital twins are an amazing tool for solving product lifecycle challenges and not only offer sizeable maintenance savings but simplify innovation with product simulations. There is an initial cost to scan and digitize every object, process, or environment you need to simulate, but for many companies, the ROI for digital twins will be incredibly appealing.
Digital twins will reinvent the way businesses train employees, maintain equipment, and improve facilities.
Human and Machine Integration with Industry 5.0
Just when you think you’ve got a handle on Industry 4.0, off in the distance you hear the squealing of tires. You turn to see what’s causing the commotion. It’s Industry 5.0, ripping around the corner at breakneck speed. A human is behind the wheel, and in the passenger seat—a cobot.
Industry 5.0 will advance the integration of people and machines, enhancing collaborative robots (cobots) to unlock a new level of adaptability and efficiency. While a robot does mundane or unsafe tasks more efficiently, the worker is free to do something the robot cannot—complex analysis.
This shift in human focus to analysis requires upskilling, so managers will face the challenge of either retraining existing workers or bringing in new talent, even as the wealth of tribal knowledge diminishes. This labor shift will introduce new opportunities for workers to learn and create, and manufacturing jobs will become more fulfilling and appealing.
24% of manufacturing execs surveyed by Deloitte cited augmented workforce efficiencies as their #1 future investment.
Sweeping Change with New Tech Upgrades
All of the new tech utilization of 2020 will be leveraged to accomplish fundamental shifts in the way manufacturers do business. As smart robots take over more manufacturing tasks and as complex operations require more sophisticated infrastructure, the appeal of overseas operations diminishes, encouraging companies to bring manufacturing back to the US.
One-third of US manufacturing execs surveyed by Deloitte plan to bring at least some of their production back across the ocean in 2021.
Another sweeping trend in manufacturing will be increased transparency. From combating pollution and labor abuse to simply keeping customers more informed, the benefits of transparency abound. And as anticipated reshoring efforts take effect, transparency will follow as visibility is more easily accomplished when operations are just down the road.
As overseas labor prices increase, American smart factories will be on the rise.
Need Help with Your Future Digital Endeavors?
Understanding manufacturing trends 2021 and choosing new tech to introduce to your workers and your existing machines is a complicated undertaking. No matter where 2021 takes your digital transformation, we can help – from human to machine, and any combination in between. Whether you’re looking to implement AR into your training, improve remote work with IoT, or streamlining operations – we have solutions to support you.
Interesting in exploring the potential these manufacturing trends 2021 can have on your operations? Just contact us and we would be happy to help.