2020 was a year that left a mark in history. It has affected industries of all kinds, from the education sector to the medical sector and even the manufacturing industry. As a matter of fact, the manufacturing industry was affected in a rather specific way.
Because people were forced to stay at home, plant and factory managers could not attend factory tasks. Despite many of the processes already being automated, on-site quality assurance is still necessary. Add lack of manpower because even logistics and delivery services suffered terrible setbacks due to travel limitations. But now it’s 2021, and the industry is slowly recovering. What’s in store for the manufacturing industry?
Digitalization on the Production Floor
With the rise of machine learning, robotics, and other cutting-edge technology focused on manufacturing, there is no doubt that a shift to mostly machine-driven production will be more commonplace. There’s more digitalization because, for one, as we saw during the pandemic last year, we can no longer solely rely on manpower to ensure continuous operations on the production floor.
For another, the desire to increase consistency rates makes robots a better choice over a line of people repeatedly doing a task that can be automated anyway. This is not to say that robots are taking over people’s jobs; it just means skilled people are not being moved to positions that allow them to utilize their skills better.
Customer Demands Will Affect the Industry
With the dramatic increase in e-commerce, the populace’s demands for products of all sorts have never been higher. As customers and clients become more and more aware and more vocal about what they need and want out of manufacturers and companies, the industry will be forced to accommodate these demands. The demands being the lower cost to higher quality, while at the same time a high production rate.
On-demand manufacturing will be put on hold in favor of high to low volume manufacturing, as the market is still largely volatile, but when demand happens, it’s absolutely high. Even a change in target segment is present: many manufacturers are selling directly to consumers as business-to-consumer transactions reach an all-time high.
Sustainability Is Now a Must, No Longer an Option
More and more companies now boast an eco-friendly and sustainable manufacturing process. At face value, people see it as a marketing strategy to pull in more people who advocate for more responsible and environmentally friendly companies. But sustainability actually creates better energy and cost efficiency for manufacturing companies, making its adoption two-fold.
As natural resources begin to deplete, the need for renewable sources of energy and building materials increases more. And with revolving around technology becoming more efficient, it is truly becoming the more viable option, especially when compared to the enormously high process of conventional materials and energy sources. This change in a more sustainable and ethical form of manufacturing is slowly being adopted, as there is a considerable investment necessary to improve systems.
Smart Machines Are the Trend
The Internet of Things (IoT) and smart machines have greatly helped the manufacturing industry improve its automation system more. IoT is a system that enables the interconnection of machines and devices to work in programmed synchronization, enables strategic planning of manufacturing processes.
While there’s still a need for on-site personnel to perform quality assurance, many other tasks that require manpower are now being streamlined and can be accomplished remotely. By using smart machines and the improvements within the IoT field, manufacturers can monitor factory progress and systems even from home. And as the years go by, more and more manufacturers implement IoT, making operations even more efficient.
Improvements in Delivery and Logistics
As the pandemic has shown, the importance of logistics and delivery cannot be understated. While the shortage of general commodities was due to many factors all converging into one, a large part was caused by the delivery system being affected by quarantine laws and travel limitations.
The manufacturing industry desires to avoid a similar situation again; many companies have opted to contract smaller delivery businesses. This need for shipment and delivery services increased dramatically, with many companies installing hitches on their trucks to caravan shipments to satisfy demand.
The pandemic has changed many aspects of modern society, from people’s daily routines to industries’ operations. Even the manufacturing industry was affected. However, the lessons learned by this sector during this time are valuable, albeit painful. Companies and industries wanting to survive this era need to adjust, adapt, and implement these changes. Doing so can ensure that businesses remain and thrive.