When it comes to technology, the world of manufacturing is usually ahead of the curve. Well before the most advanced technology trickles down to the consumer market, manufacturers are experimenting with it and pushing it to become even more innovative and effective. Improving energy efficiency, developing new materials, and testing the limits of software are all part and parcel of the manufacturing space.
From the leading edge of the curve, it can be hard to make concrete predictions, but to keen watchers, certain trends in the world of manufacturing technology are poised to explode in 2018. With that in mind, here are three trends to look out for over the next 12 months.
Data is at the core of modern innovation. With the right data, companies can discover all kinds of insights into their own operations. The hunger for more and better data can not only paint a picture of the current state of affairs, but project trends for the future. This allows companies to innovate based on actual information rather than vague guesses.
But first, companies actually have to collect the data. Fortunately, there are a growing number of ways to do this that are more efficient than traditional, old-fashioned paperwork. Today data gathering can be easily automated, thanks to small, cheap sensors in buildings, drones that can fly over fields and wilderness, and other tools. Instead of sending people to remote or dangerous locations, data can all be gathered safely from a distance.
While the office as we know it isn’t going away entirely, it’s a dramatically different place than it was a decade ago, and it will be on the verge of even more change in 2018, all thanks to modern data collection tools. These tools don’t just improve the kind of information a company gets — they make physical offices less necessary.
A dispersed mobile workforce with the right digital tools makes having a central meeting point superfluous. Companies with a partly or wholly ‘infrastructureless’ setup can do anything an office-based company can. Rather than kill jobs, this approach can actually help a company expand its workforce. Thanks to new communication tools, geography doesn’t limit where companies look for talent nearly as much as it used to. Employees who travel can remain in constant communication with each other and their managers, regardless of where they may be located. Coordinating those employees’ locations — getting people to the right place, at the right time for an inspection, for instance — can be done through automated systems that send out relevant information as needed.
Though the workforce and data collection tools don’t need to be physically near each other anymore, the captured data still needs to be analyzed after it has been collected. Fortunately, better data transfer and monitoring systems will make it easier to elminate bad data and allow for more raw information to be easily processed.
Currently, a lot of work goes into creating programs to help determine which data is useful and come up with predictions and insights into trends that would otherwise be invisible. However, as data intake grows, in 2018 companies will be able to turn to programs that can learn and actually get better at processing data as they operate. Those insights will actually improve over time as more data is gathered and examined by the systems.
It’s important to note that this kind of analytics doesn’t take away the need for human decision-making processes. Providing a layer of artificial intelligence to products and services simply serves to provide more data, at a faster pace, and with more accurate projections. Companies will still need people to leverage the information provided by the AI, which can be used to augment human analyses and develop strategies for the future. AI helps people learn more about their businesses so that they can make better informed decisions that can help their companies — and, by extension, themselves — succeed.”
Lower the Bottom Line, Amplify the Top Line
Everything in technology and business is trending toward creating and strengthening connections, and better, more informed decision-making, and these trends are no exception. How they evolve will help shape the ways manufacturing is done for a long time.
Manufacturing stays at the vanguard of technology in part because it is one of the places you’ll always find a budget for research and development. That’s because those in manufacturing understand that innovation fuels their work. The search for new products, and new systems to produce new products, never ends, and 2018 shows every sign of accelerating the speed of innovation.
James Robins is Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at GoCanvas.