The manufacturing industry continues to suffer from the turmoil of recent years, with supply chain and workforce disruption remaining major issues. At the same time, the world is heading into an unprecedented period of economic uncertainty. At first glance, this would seem to indicate slower growth and lower profits.
However, those who have been able to meet these challenges while taking advantage of the opportunities offered by automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and other pillars of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” to stimulate innovation and modernization have everything to win. With that in mind, here are some predictions about the top trends across manufacturing and the industry in the coming year.
Investing in skills to meet workforce challenges
Des ingénieurs en intelligence artificielle aux forgerons, en passant par les infirmières vetérinaires et les guides touristiques, les travailleurs qualified de toutes sortes sont de plus en plus demandés alors que l’industrie s’efforce de faire face à l’evolution de la dynamique de Labor. Behavioral trends such as the “big takeoff” and “silent resignation” have emerged as workers re-evaluate work-life balance and take advantage of the different employment models offered by the sharing economy. At the same time, the jobs themselves are changing, as technology reduces the need for humans to spend much of their time on repetitive manual tasks. But it also creates a demand for skilled workers who can build, design, and deploy technology, as well as manage an organization’s changing human needs.
In this context, employers are increasingly aware of the importance of skill-based training and recruitment. Although a traditional university degree is likely to be the standard passport to professional employment at present, companies are now focusing on finding candidates with the skills and experience to do their jobs, as well as opportunities to upgrade existing workforces where possible. The industry will also increasingly recognize the value of “soft skills,” such as communication skills, creativity, problem-solving, strategy, and conflict resolution.
Artificial intelligence, automation, digital twins, and the Internet of Things
All of these elements are closely related. Technology has the potential to provide solutions to many of the challenges that industry and society will face in 2023, and real value will be created through the convergence of these trends. When we talk about AI in business, we usually mean machine learning, which includes algorithms that can get better at performing a particular job as they are exposed to larger amounts of data. These algorithms are the foundation of automation: they allow machines to perform increasingly complex tasks without the need for human interaction. And when we connect these smart devices together, we make the Internet of Things (IoT).
In the context of manufacturing and industry, this means connected machines and equipment that use analytics and sensors for optimal performance. Downtime is minimized with predictive maintenance, as spare parts for repairs can be automatically dispatched to where the system knows they will be needed. Sensors that use machine learning techniques such as computer vision perform automated quality control, monitor the quality of finished products, and make automatic adjustments to the manufacturing process to improve results. Algorithms also monitor energy distribution around modern manufacturing facilities to increase efficiency and reduce waste, pollution, and emissions. A digital twin is another concept related to data and analytics wherein information gathered from sensors and IoT devices in the real world is used to create a digital simulation of a system – be it an individual part or an entire manufacturing plant – in a virtual world. Here it can be measured, analyzed, and experimented with at a much lower cost than doing it with real physical systems. The lessons learned from the digital twin can then be applied to the object, system, or process in the real world.
In 2023, we will see more and more smart factories and factories harnessing the power of AI, automation, the Internet of Things, and digital twins to drive more efficient operations, and ultimately improve business outcomes.
Supply chain disruption continues
Problems that began with the large-scale industrial shutdowns that occurred during the global Covid-19 pandemic have continued into 2023. Added to these are emerging and lingering issues such as the war between Russia and Ukraine, inflation and recession, and geopolitical issues such as with Brexit and tensions between China and the West, And cybercrime, international sanctions and climate-related issues including more and more extreme weather events. All of these factors will continue to affect the movement of goods and products in the global supply chains that support manufacturing and industrial activity.
As with other challenges facing manufacturing companies in 2023, this is a situation that, while it may be harmful, also allows for the emergence of leaders and disruptors who will find innovative ways to harness technology solutions. Automation and IoT technology have the potential to increase efficiency, reduce waste and combat fraud in supply chains. The companies that will successfully emerge from this turbulent time will be those that develop the ability to respond to changing circumstances in a flexible manner, as well as harness technology to enable end-to-end visibility and control over their supply chains.
Carbon neutrality, ESG standards, and sustainability in the manufacturing industry
All sectors of society strive to reduce their impact on the environment and, in particular, the carbon dioxide emissions they generate, and manufacturing industries are certainly no exception. By reducing their reliance on fossil fuels and embracing renewable energy sources, manufacturers are trying to accelerate their journey to net zero emissions. Traceability is a buzzword in 2023 as manufacturers strive to prove the provenance of everything that goes into their products. The energy used must be clean, textiles and materials must be produced without child labour, workers must be fairly compensated, plastics must be recycled where possible, and minerals must be extracted sustainably and responsibly. Consumers are increasingly showing that they care about sustainability and ethical production and are willing to base their purchasing decisions on these criteria. 2023 should be the year in which these issues become a business priority for companies, as well as a matter of ethics and principles.
The concept behind distributed manufacturing is that products should be built as close as possible to where they will eventually be used. As opposed to manufacturing in central centers and transporting across countries or the world to the final consumer. In addition to helping manufacturers achieve carbon neutrality goals and ESG standards by eliminating waste from transportation, logistics and distribution, it can reduce warehousing costs, speed up product delivery to customers and enable customization and adaptation at scale. Fablabs — short for “manufacturing labs” and manufacturing spaces — is an example of decentralized manufacturing, where products can be designed, tested, and prototyped quickly to create small batches of custom products. Decentralized manufacturing processes often use additive manufacturing (3D printing), which makes it possible to manufacture products layer by layer. This method is often more efficient in terms of raw material use than subtractive manufacturing processes, which are the norm in centralized manufacturing operations and involve products that are cut from raw materials. Pop-up plants have been used in the construction industry to create prefabricated parts for buildings near construction sites where they will be installed, as well as in retail, where they create bespoke products, including skin creams and cosmetics designed for each customer.
Translated article from the American magazine Forbes – Author: Bernard Marr
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