2016’s Manufacturing Trends

We’ve been looking at some reports written by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) about the trends they are seeing in manufacturing.

With memories of the recessions of the past, manufacturing businesses have understandably been shaken by Brexit. Now is the time to make sure your business is up with current industry thinking and technological developments, to help keep you competitive and lean.

PwC have summarised the breakthrough equipment, ideas, and processes that will potentially have the greatest impact on factory environments. The following four technology categories are already driving much of the change.

Internet of Things (IoT):

The connected factory is an idea that has been evolving for the past few years. Increasingly, it means expanding the power of the Web to link machines, sensors, computers, and humans in order to enable new levels of information monitoring, collection, processing, and analysis. These devices provide more precision and can translate collected data into insights that, for example, help to determine the amount of voltage used to produce a product or to better understand how temperature, pressure, and humidity impact performance. Stanley Black & Decker has adapted the Internet of Things in a plant in Mexico to monitor the status of production lines in real time via mobile devices and Wi-Fi RFID tags. As a result, overall equipment effectiveness has increased by 24 percent, labour utilization by 10 percent, and throughput by 10 percent.

But for industrial manufacturing companies, the next generation of IoT technology should go well beyond real-time monitoring to connected information platforms that leverage data and advanced analytics to deliver higher-quality, more durable, and more reliable products. A hint of this can be seen in wind turbines manufactured by General Electric. This equipment contains some 20,000 sensors that produce 400 data points per second. Immediate, ongoing analysis of this data allows GE and its customers to optimize turbine performance and proactively make decisions about maintenance and parts replacement.


Over the last decade, China has emerged as an automated manufacturing powerhouse, heavily investing in robotics. A Chinese company recently broke ground on the world’s first fully automated factory, in Dongguan. China is pushing more and more to replace a human workforce, whereas the US and UK are taking a ‘cobotics’ route, where robots are employed to complement rather than replace workers. Teams operators and machines are working in unison in order to make complex parts of an assembly process faster, easier, and safer.

Cobotics is rapidly gaining momentum, and successful implementations to date have focused largely on specific ergonomically challenging tasks within the aerospace and automotive industries. But these applications will expand as automation developers introduce more sophisticated sensors and more adaptable, highly functional robotic equipment that will let humans and machines interact deftly on the factory floor.

Augmented reality:

Recent advances in computer vision, computer science, information technology, and engineering have enabled manufacturers to deliver real-time information and guidance at the point of use. Users simply follow the text, graphics, audio, and other virtual enhancements superimposed onto goggles or real assemblies as they perform complex tasks on the factory floor. These tools can simultaneously assess the accuracy and timing of these tasks, and notify the operator of quality risks.

3D printing:

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing technology produces solid objects from digital designs by building up multiple layers of plastic, resin, or other materials in a precisely determined shape.

Early adopters among industrial manufacturing companies are using 3D printing to manufacture parts in small lots for product prototypes, to reduce design-to-manufacturing cycle times, and to dramatically alter the economics of production. For example, BAE Systems turned to 3D printing when it could no longer secure a critical injection-moulded plastic part for a regional jetliner. The company saved more than 60 percent on the cost of the part, avoided retooling costs, and shrank production lead times by two months.

Industrial manufacturers should apply 3D printing technology to product development and prototyping to spur innovation and reduce time-to-market.

3D printing is still in its infancy, and the technology is currently limited in the performance specifications of the products it can produce. But companies must begin planning for the incorporation of this technology now.

You can read the full article here: http://www.strategyand.pwc.com/perspectives/2016-manufacturing-trends

There is also this great pdf takeaway to print and read: ‘Influence of megatrends at leading industrial manufacturing companies’.