What will the factory be like in the future? Here are some major trends to watch.
Manufacturing and services
Manufacturing is all about transforming raw materials into finished goods, right? Increasingly, factories are also providing services. Remanufacturing of parts, consultation on best practices in packaging, and logistics are all providing revenue streams for manufacturers now.
It makes sense, since the shift to a service economy has been a major trend for decades, but it’s a new idea for companies that have been focused only on production.
Retailers, distributors, and consumers are all clamoring for greater sustainability in production, and manufacturers are working toward that goal. Factories are harvesting heat from machinery and using it to reduce energy costs. They’re using byproducts that used to be thrown away, and creating value-added products instead.
Cheaper automation and more expensive workers add up to a more highly automated factory, where highly trained operators and engineers work with robots. It may mean the end of factories’ dependence on large numbers of low-paid workers, but the trend can also mean safer working conditions and higher productivity.
Nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and advanced robotics are changing the world of manufacturing. The Internet of Things is moving into factories. Some of the new tech that will change factories in the future hasn’t even been discovered yet, but there’s enough in the wings to make this an exciting time for manufacturing.
Hundreds of factory workers, lunch pails in hand, streaming through the factory gates — that was then and this is now. A single product might now be made in multiple locations, from the home of the remote-working designer to an additive manufacturing shop downtown to the main plant in an industrial park and finishing up at a sheltered workshop in another state. Parts are being made overseas for reshored plants and kitting is being done at logistics fulfillment houses.
This reflects a larger trend among U.S. companies, but also is made possible by new technologies, and particularly by the IoT.
Factories are changing, and we’re here to help. Make sure you have our contact info in your phone for emergencies, and don’t hesitate to contact us for planning as you move your factory toward the future.