What can we expect for manufacturing in 2015? Editorial Director Jeff Reinke sat down with Dan Miklovic, Principal Analyst at LNS Research.
1. From an IT perspective, what will be the biggest trend impacting the investments manufacturers make in 2015?
In 2015, Big Data will be incredibly significant within the manufacturing sector. Different segments of manufacturing will treat Big Data differently, but it is the one thread that will cross virtually every sector of manufacturing. For asset intensive manufacturing operations it will be focused on asset health while for discrete manufacturers such as automotive and aerospace it will encompass an exponential growth in the data related to product content and manufacturing conditions. This would include labor data such as certifications of the people actually assembling the product as well as product stewardship related data. For food and beverage and life sciences companies it will be the combination of these factors, as manufacturers increasing must improve traceability. Every industry will have some variation on this trend. For IT departments the implications range from network capacity, to security, to transfer to the Cloud.
2. There has been a lot of positive news regarding U.S. manufacturing over the last 18 months. Is there one particular report of piece of data that stands out to you? Why?
The return of jobs to the U.S. as companies bring back domestic manufacturing is a stand-out statistic. While the actual numbers vary depending on the type of industry it reflects the fact that technology is once again restoring American competitiveness, which is actually good for the global economy. Even low-cost producers like China are going to benefit from jobs moving back to the U.S. because it means their own economies are growing to the point where wages are increasing and they are developing internal demand, becoming less dependent on exports to sustain their economies. For the U.S. it means employment is increasing, which will boost our economy as well.
3. If you could fast-forward 12 months, what would be the most interesting thing to see or learn about in regards to how manufacturing performs over the next 12 months?
The cost of energy is going to be a big factor impacting manufacturers in the next 12 months. If it keeps on its downward track there will be double impact on manufacturing. Many manufacturers will see their cost of production go down; at the same time increased spending by consumers will drive demand higher. On the other hand if the low prices we are seeing today are short-lived then the opposite will be true, and we will see increasing costs in the face of declining demand.
4. Which of the following technologies do you think will have the most impact in 2015, and why?
These all vary by industry so we have to take each one separately:
- 3D Printing
Anywhere you need low volume production like the spare parts environment or the aerospace market, or you are pursuing a strategy of mass customization 3D printing will be the most important technology for you in 2015.
If you are in an industry that requires extensive labor, such as assembly operations or hazardous/inhospitable locations like deep in mines or extreme climatic environments robotics will be an important technology in 2015. In addition, this will also be true if you have precision requirements combined with high speed assembly like the medical device or similar industries.
- Enhanced connectivity
Where the information content about your manufacturing conditions, like in regulated industries or in those where uptime is the difference between profitability and losses, then the ability to leverage every last iota of information about the process(es) will be a critical success factor; so for those industries enhanced connectivity will be the most important technology in 2015.
- Network security
This is the wildcard issue. If what has happened to Sony becomes widespread across industry in an escalating cyber terrorism campaign then all the other bets are out the window and network security will be the issue everybody feels is most important in 2015.
5. If you could give U.S. manufacturers one thing, what would it be?
Smart Connected Devices: The more information we have about what is going on in our manufacturing operations the easier it will be to pursue Operational Excellence, no matter what form it takes in your industry. Regardless of energy price swings, geopolitical turmoil, and the direction the economy takes, enhanced information, properly leveraged, gives manufacturers the power to compete.