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The Future of Manufacturing: Trends in 2023

Eryn is our VP of Product and Strategy based out of New York City. Her specialty lies in products from concept through launch. She utilizes her industry expertise to advise on best practices and strategies to optimize client’s business goals.

Within the past few years, the global manufacturing industry has faced massive disruption due to unprecedented worldwide challenges. With supply chain and workforce turmoil still very much an issue, companies are seemingly beginning to face a decline in growth and overall profits. You might be asking yourself what can be done to combat this bleak-looking future ahead? If everyone is saying the future doesn’t look too hot, what am I supposed to do? Do not fear, with changing times come new opportunities and ways to navigate these trials. Let’s all take a deep breath and walk through some of these options.

Combatting workforce challenges by investing in skilled personnel

We’ve all seen what happened during and shortly after the thick of the pandemic. The Great Resignation, The Big Quit, The Great Reshuffle, however you want to call it, has been one of the biggest economic trends since the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic. With workers reassessing and lusting after better work/life balance, companies have had to adapt by changing their hiring and business strategies.

Not only are the workers changing their mindsets, but the requirements for certain positions are changing as well. As the industry shifts, jobs also need to shift accordingly. With the emergence of artificial intelligence and smart manufacturing, it is crucial for companies to invest in discovering and implementing strategies to train workers in learning relevant skills such as building, designing, and deploying new technologies. As the needs of the industry shift, companies are responsible for the management of shifting workforce initiatives to complement or boost the skillsets of employees.

Technology, Technology, Technology- Invest in it, optimize it, and utilize it.

With AI being the talk of the town these days, many worry that this may lead to a decline in workforce personnel needs. While AI may seem threatening, it is working to make daily challenges and workload more manageable. This means that without reducing or replacing the workforce labor, advanced technology is allowing employees to do their jobs more efficiently without having to focus on repetitive menial tasks. AI allows machines and systems to learn, which in turn creates the foundation for automation. Think of it this way, instead of spending hours manually rummaging through sheets of excel data to build your custom report, you log onto your computer, click a few buttons, and voila! An accurate and clean report is available to you in seconds. The information provided in the report still needs to come from someone. Technology does not replace the knowledge of skilled workers. On the contrary, it enhances the skillset of these skilled workers by reducing the need for seemingly trivial time-consuming tasks.

System implementations and automation are crucial in today’s manufacturing industry. Most successful companies utilize PLM. ERP, Inventory Management, Financial, and warehouse management systems amongst others to reduce inefficiencies and room for data errors in day-to-day operations. The need for organized data, accurate financial planning, and production planning are pivotal for both companies and manufacturing partners today. To keep up with the times and ever shifting “want it now” consumer demand, technology plays a huge part in making this possible.

Innovations for Supply Chain challenges

We all have heard the phrase “due to the global supply chain issue” more than a few times these past few years. Companies and manufacturers have experienced shortages, delays, longer lead times, and increased freight rates during these trying times. Global political issues, natural disasters, inflation, recession, and personnel shortages have played a huge part in damaging the supply chain. It has become the downfall for many companies but has also opened opportunities for others.

Being faced with an industry disruptor gives industry leaders room for innovation. And the biggest innovation in the manufacturing industry in recent years has been technology automation. Those who can embrace the change and adapt by harnessing technology and its solutions are taking a step in tackling the supply chain issues head on. Optimizing and utilizing technology systems will give companies more control over their supply chain by providing full cycle visibility over their supply chains.

Sustainability- What is it and how to implement it?

It seems like everyone is deeming themselves as sustainable or on the path to sustainability these days. Companies are all targeting to diminish their negative impacts to the environment, society, and governance. Transparency and knowledge regarding a company’s manufacturing practices are becoming more in demand from consumers but what counts as being sustainable? Some may think sustainability only relates to utilizing recycled materials but there is much more to it. Freight, ethics, practices, labor, and material/product origin are all contributing factors to sustainability. As this continues to become more in demand, businesses are understanding technology’s crucial role in sustainability.

Technology and automation organize efficient production planning which can reduce delays and Co2 emissions when shipping out materials or bulk products from suppliers. This reduces the number of shipments and type of freight required for a production run which in turn can reduce negative impacts to the environment and company costs. Shipping by Vessel is more environmentally friendly than air freight due to producing a significantly lower carbon emission rate but has a longer lead time. Air Freight on the other hand can be great for express delivery but costs significantly more and, based on how much air shipment a company makes, has a larger negative impact on the environment due to high CO2 emissions. If you can plan accurately so that all production can be consolidated and shipped by vessel, you are not only helping the environment, but also saving money and increasing profit margins. It’s a win win!

Technology can also help with decentralizing manufacturing. This means diversifying your manufacturing needs to become more sustainable. Producing goods require the need for raw materials, so choosing the right raw materials with sustainable processes and origin is important. If your product manufacturer is in the United States but the raw materials you nominate originate from Asia, you may be causing more harm to your wallet and most importantly the environment. Technology can help automate which manufacturers and suppliers should be utilized to reduce negative impacts on the environment.

Keeping informed and staying on top of the latest emerging business and technology trends is important in continuing to innovate the manufacturing industry. One thing for certain is that technology does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. It is becoming essential in day-to-day operations while allowing businesses to be more efficient. It can strengthen your workforce by providing them with the ability to learn new skills while enhancing old ones, producing cost efficient yet quality product, finding solutions for seemingly never-ending supply chain issues, and guide your company on the path to sustainability.

Need more advice or assistance? Your product strategy and business transformation experts at Unity Consulting are here to help!


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