By John Kitchingman, Managing Director, EuroNorth, Dassault Systèmes

In the last few years, we’ve seen manufacturers respond to unprecedented challenges with new product lines and restructuring of their supply chains. With this flux comes a greater need for digital capabilities to help manufacturers manage this transition.

According to Deloitte, if manufacturers do not embrace digitisation, as many as 35% of today’s industrial companies could be out of business or significantly changed within the next 10 years.

This is a huge change in a short time span, but this won’t stop anytime soon – it will just be exposed in different forms. As we see it, there are five key trends which will usher in a wave of innovation within the industry.

Trend #1 – Making automation accessible

For some companies, automation hasn’t been an option for manufacturing products due to minimal financial resources and investment. However, because of technological advances, these costs are decreasing, allowing more manufacturing companies to leverage the advantages of automation in terms of precision, repeatability, efficiency, and productivity.

It’s clear that companies need to make more data-driven decisions and find out what to automate based on their priorities and the value to be created. This technology will soon be considered imperative to staying competitive in today’s landscape.

Trend #2 – AI and Advanced Analytics

AI capabilities are promising for aiding increased customisation and personalisation. This trend grew drastically post pandemic, and AI will soon be used even more widely for this, especially with consumers who choose to share their preferences.

Alongside AI, the internet of things (IoT) and industrial internet of things (IIoT) is supporting manufacturers for real-time monitoring of manufacturing operations, predictive maintenance, and inventory checking.  The data generated from IoT and IIoT systems is key to making real-time decisions and improvements.

Trend #3 – Supply Chain Nearshoring

Supply chain disruption was at its peak late last year, and this unearthed several challenges for the industry. Many manufacturers used local suppliers to address some of the supply chain challenges.

While this may increase the costs of products, it should be seen as an opportunity to increase agility, flexibility, and quality that will result in increased customer satisfaction. The onshoring method will continue to be part of a ‘globalisation to localisation’ strategy. This trend will accelerate the concept of distributed manufacturing or local manufacturing which provides a positive, consumer-centric approach to meet ever-increasing customer expectations.

Also, nearshoring, distributed supply chain and logistics will eliminate single sourcing dependency and improve resiliency and reliability that is specifically required in sudden changes and instabilities. Manufacturing companies should revisit their existing business models and strategies and look for solutions to reduce cost, quality, and delivery time.

Trend #4 – Robots

Robots are not a new phenomenon in the manufacturing industry, and industrial robots are – well known for their high speed and precision in doing repetitive tasks with minimal or no human interactions.

As the need to increase precision and productivity in the industry continues, manufacturers will utilise increasingly emerging types of robots such as collaborative robots (Cobots) and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to increase agility, flexibility, and built-in quality. These robots not only work with humans, but also allow people to focus on more creative and innovative tasks for a competitive edge.

Trend #5 – Digital Transformation

At its core, digital transformation is about modernising traditional systems, retrofitting legacy equipment, and leveraging the power of digital technologies to improve quality, efficiency, and productivity, all of which are now essential to creating more value and remaining competitive.

A combination of IoT, IIoT, data analytics, AI, and virtual twin technology can increase real-time visibility and achieve peak performance and optimisation. These digital tools are needed to fuel better real-time decision making. Digital transformation can no longer be avoided, and manufacturers should consider embracing this trend as a high priority to remain competitive.