It’s the season for predictions, and with 2020 having proved to be a year like no other, guessing what the new year will bring is even difficult than usual. The uncertainty of 2020 will likely spillover into 2021 as our workspace, goals and manufacturing processes are reevaluated and adjusted to our new reality. In the face of such uncertainty, it’s particularly helpful to take a close look at existing trends and consider how they are likely to play out going forward.
Here are four trends that I believe will dominate boardroom discussions in 2021.
1. Accelerated adoption of disruptive technology solutions
Significant uncertainty calls for effective disruptive technologies that can address frequent changes and enable companies to quickly adjust to fast-evolving new market conditions. Opportunities to push the envelope of production through technology adoption will be accelerated by rapid learning about what it takes to drive productivity while striving to reduce cost when labor is unavailable or at risk.
In these times of rapid change, those who will be first to adopt the right disruptive technology solutions will be the new winners, while others will lag behind or disappear. The needs are different in each industrial sector. For some, cost savings are a necessity for survival; for others, an increase in production is essential to monetize opportunities. But for each industry segment, obtaining a disruptive technology that addresses its new challenges should be today’s prime priority, so I expect to see increased adoption of disruptive technologies in many industries.
2. Uncovering the power of data
In 2020, many manufacturers realized that their data could help answer some of the enigmas around their production line performance. I believe that this trend will grow significantly as plant operators learn not just to analyze performance but also how to predict it, and even how to harness AI, to prescribe the right work envelope to accommodate their needs.
In 2021, I expect that traditional manufacturers will continue the journey, overcoming the fear of adopting and implementing unfamiliar data technologies. They will become open to adopting data-based platforms and methods for analyzing data from different sources to create a clear picture of the optimum operational process, conduct root cause analysis and isolate different factors.
3. Empowering the operator
With data on its way to becoming the key factor in the decision-making process, not just in meeting rooms but also in the production floor, the role of the machine operator will evolve. AI algorithms will probably not replace operators, but they will create a new role for them as ‘mentors’ to the algorithms. The AI algorithms, as they are designed to do, will continually learn from human behavior and optimize it. The time to train and certify a skilled operator will be shorter, and operators will be empowered by embracing these changes.
4. 360° solutions
In the past few years, we encountered an endless array of solutions all trying to solve the dilemmas of the production line and improve its performance. While management often has very strong and tangible goals, translating them to the production line is subjective, and therefore is not always successful. Current performance-improvement solutions vary, with some looking to reduce manpower or manual work, some focusing on maintenance and others on improving efficiency. But very few solutions take a 360° approach to the challenges as a way to provide the best solution for the production envelope.
That is starting to change, and I believe that in 2021, the manufacturing world will be mature enough to implement multi-discipline technology solutions that have a greater impact on performance than a piecemeal combination of focused solutions. Increasingly, manufacturers will choose solutions that use not just data and software solutions but also chemical, mechanical and process engineering-based solutions. These multi-disciplinary solutions will provide significant value and will rise to the top, becoming disruptive technologies.
Putting the “new” in manufacturing - “Smartech manewfacturing”
An example of this new approach is Smartech’s multi-discipline solutions, which harness data analytics, machine learning, mechanical and chemical understanding along with process engineering to provide unique 360° solutions. The solutions help managers control and drive performance by finding the right balance for the production floor between preferred quality, desired cost and maximum efficiency. It brings new value and disruptive capabilities to manufacturing, elevating it to a new level we call manewfacturing™.
Smartech is a leading global technology company focused on generating game-changing technologies for production lines in varied manufacturing sectors. With its autonomous manufacturing suite, which enhances operators’ work, and smart manufacturing modules, such as raw materials reduction technology, line capacity increase solutions, and more, Smartech is trusted by many of the world's leading manufacturers to supply innovative, high-value technologies that transform their businesses.