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Top Three Predictions for Manufacturers in 2014

Posted By Tom Comstock, February 19, 2014 at 7:34 AM, in Category: Transformative Technologies

The past several years have been great for the manufacturing industry. One might even argue stellar is an appropriate adjective. Growth is up, investment in expansion is booming, and plant optimization levels appear to be increasing worldwide, at least in aggregate. As with every industry, we have had our share of up and down moments, but overall it was a successful year. The New Year is shaping up to be even better, but greater success won’t come without new challenges to overcome. With all the new technologies emerging and now going mainstream – coupled with an economy that might just have turned the corner – manufacturers are now faced with  making the most of them, and demonstrating that the investment in  new systems will indeed accelerate growth.   

As is the case with any new year, the performance bar gets set higher than the previous year. We all now have new goals to reach, among which are "how am I going to improve my output again this year?"  and “how am I going to make this year even better?”

One thing to consider is how far we have come with technology that is already being utilized. More and more manufacturers are taking advantage of technology as a way to improve process efficiency and optimization. The push in technology will continue to grow this year. While some technologies may not be quite ready for “prime time” yet, overall the need and want to have them  is there.

Continued industry growth over the past couple of years is now putting new stress on what is involved in continuing  that growth because  the low- hanging fruit has already been picked. Achieving higher  levels of performance improvement will take more work, commitment, and better execution. Many companies will be looking to expand their shop floors by simply adding more workers, only to find the labor shortage is quite real. Furthermore, those seeking to fill the void of qualified and skilled workers will increasingly turn to IT to fill that gap.

Given it is the season for predictions and forecasts, I have come up with three of my own for the new year, which are listed below.

  • A Bigger Push for Growth – With the overall strengthening of the global economy, growth is definitely a top-of-mind focus for global manufacturers. The challenge for 2014 is how will this growth be accomplished without adding anyone to the management ranks? With a known labor shortage of new shop floor workers, many have not focused on the challenge of filling the management ranks. This is a big issue, and one that  industry leaders are now focusing on addressing with innovative new management techniques as well as the investment in IT systems to enable greater management efficiency across locations.
  • Better Business Analytics – Manufacturers are now serious about embedding analytics, measurement, and feedback mechanisms directly within the actual business processes they create. And, these  capabilities must operate even after processes are changed or modified. Continued flexibility  to adapt quickly to change without disrupting the performance measurement side of the business will be a key capability to learn and master this year. This objective comes with a number of challenges, but will pay dividends in the long run in terms of efficiencies, product quality, supply chain considerations, etc.
  • The Push for Mobility is Still New – Manufacturers are still tied to their laptops, as much as we would all like to suggest otherwise.  Although industry leaders “get” the power of mobility and are reaping significant rewards, many  firms are still in the minority. I am definitely seeing significant interest in managing production remotely on a smartphone or tablet, but this type of transformation  will take  more time for companies to accomplish.  This is a case where the technological possibilities are ahead of adoption on the plant floor. Many companies will plan to add a mobility component to the production process as part of their push to modernize manufacturing in response to product demand and an increasingly global environment.

As with every industry, the insight of these predictions will either fade away as the year goes on or make me seem like a real genius! Regardless, I would suggest that these trends are certainly in play, with the only real variable being how quickly and effectively they are adopted. Those that “get it” and can execute their vision will reap significant rewards.   

Tom Comstock is Vice President of DELMIA Strategy & User Experience at Dassault Systèmes. Mr. Comstock has over 30 years of strategy, marketing and business development experience in the manufacturing execution and supply chain management industries. He is a frequent author and speaker at industry events.


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Written by Tom Comstock

Tom Comstock is Vice President of DELMIA Strategy & User Experience at Dassault Systèmes. Comstock has over 30 years of strategy, marketing and business development experience in the manufacturing execution and supply chain management industries. He is a frequent author and speaker at industry events. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Los Angeles, a Master's degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master's in Business Administration from Pepperdine University.



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