With new waves of coronavirus infection, continued supply chain uncertainties and ongoing labor shortages, it’s no secret that the industrial manufacturing industry will continue to evolve based on today’s “new normal.” To help businesses anticipate this evolution and associated effects to their businesses, here are four industry predictions I foresee having an impact in 2022 and in coming years.
Goodbye to the Single Part Flow Approach
In recent years, the need to optimize and mange one operation or widget as fast as possible has led manufacturers to lean heavily into a single part flow approach. For example, an organization that manufacturers yellow pencils typically uses one machine to perform the singular task of making yellow pencils, i.e. the machine cuts the foundational material to a pencil’s exact length and the company only stocks yellow paint to color the finish product.
This approach yields the highest optimal efficiency given the process requires no variation, requires less service if a problem arises, and will usually involve less downtime when a problem occurs.
However, COVID-19 has deteriorated the benefits of this approach. Given industry labor and parts shortages across the supply chain, manufacturers may not always have the resources to continue making the same products day after day. In 2022 and the coming years, manufacturers will need to redesign their operations approach to build differentiated products based on the resources and labor available to them at any given time.
This new approach will require a redesign of the shop floor from top to bottom. It will also affect how products are shipped and received and influence the range of business partnerships an organization’s C-suite should consider. From one perspective, the industry will be “taking a step back” to the processes of generations before them.
3D Printing Moves From 'Gee Wiz' to Business Asset
While many view 3D printers as a novelty, the technology will quickly become a strategic asset in 2022. Recent evolutions pertaining to the resources that can be used to manufacturer materials via the technology is spurring organizations to rethink how they manufacturer materials and products.
In recent years, those seeking to create products via 3D printing were restricted to resin-based plastic material as foundational resources. However, the introduction of new metallic-like substances coupled with new additive manufacturing capabilities, will expand the number of products that can be created with 3D printing – transforming how current and future materials will be manufactured.
For example, today’s 3D printing practitioners now have the option to mimic mother nature, building materials and products with honeycomb and bubble structures. Furthermore, in the medical context, organizations can now create lifelike organs, ligaments and tendons for surgical procedures. While the medical promise of additive manufacturing remains limitless, there is virtually no industry that will not benefit from advancements in 3D printing.
Taking Sustainability and Planning a Step Further
For good reason, sustainability has leaped to the forefront of various industries. Business leaders and workers alike are thinking strategically about how organizations can use resources in a way that will not negatively affect future generations. While many headlines capture sustainability initiatives in the retail, fashion and food and beverage industries, sustainability has also become top-of-mind for manufacturers.
In the manufacturing context, a key challenge for organizations in 2022 will revolve around meeting and exceeding sustainability requirements on a country-by-country basis. These requirements differ where a company’s manufacturing facilities are located, how they ship their products, and where their customers are located. If an organization fails to meet a country’s requirements, resources or products may be shipped back to their country of origin and may be faced with stiff penalties and fees.
To address this challenge, manufacturers must modify machine and demand scheduling to take a specific country’s sustainability requirements into account. In the coming years, it is very likely we will see the creation of “sustainability departments” within organizations to ensure manufacturers are exceeding sustainability requirements on a country-by-country basis.
The Ability to Pivot Becomes Paramount
Due to supply chain uncertainties, labor shortages, and the anticipated departure of single part flow approaches, there will be an increased emphasis on how manufacturers can make their plants and workspaces more efficient. The key to driving this efficiency will lie in an organization’s ability to adjust its manufacturing processes based on available resources, the available labor pool, and fluctuations in demand.
More specifically, organizations will need to distribute their workforce based on available materials and resources. Data will be key to allow organizations to perform this distribution. Analyzing business, customer and partner data to make informed business decisions will be critical for organizations seeking to enhance the efficiency of their business during today’s uncertain business climate.
2021 has been challenging to companies worldwide, and 2022 will be no different. The pace of change has increased and disruption has become the new normal. Consumer demand, consumer preferences and the technology advances evolve seemingly on a daily basis and smart managers will have to be on their toes, both literally and figurately to anticipate, adapt to and leverage change into business advantage.