The manufacturing industry has always been at the forefront of innovation and growth. Over the next decade, 4 million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed as the industry continues to expand, adopting new technologies and practices to remain competitive along the way.
In recent years, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the manufacturing sector have faced numerous challenges, including skilled labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, raw materials cost increases, and more.
As organizations continue to learn new ways of surmounting these challenges and adapting, several trends have emerged that will help to shape the success of manufacturing SMBs in 2023. In this article, we’ll explore these trends and their potential impact on the industry: increased adoption of automation, boosted need for connectivity, enhanced emphasis on data-driven decision-making, and increased flexibility in operations.
Trend 1: Increased Adoption of Automation
As businesses continue to embrace digital transformation, automation is becoming an increasingly important trend for manufacturing SMBs and is helping them improve their efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness in the market. In fact, nearly 90 percent of SMBs say automation allows their business to compete with larger businesses.
Here are three ways automation can drive efficiencies:
- Reduce overhead and increase output: Automation in manufacturing can help SMBs reduce the time and labor required for certain processes. This can lead to faster production times, decreased costs, and increased output, allowing businesses to meet customer demand more effectively and quickly. The faster your time to market, the higher probability you have to become a market leader.
- Deliver consistent product quality with fewer defects: Automated processes can be more consistent and precise than manual processes, leading to higher-quality products and fewer defects. This can help manufacturing SMBs improve their reputation for quality and customer satisfaction. Automated processes can also be adapted and expanded as the business grows, allowing for increased production capacity without the need for significant investment in additional manual labor.
- Improve the customer experience: Finally, automation can be used in communication to help manufacturing SMBs improve customer experience, marketing, and internal communication, allowing them to gain a competitive advantage in the market.
Trend 2: Boosted Need for Connectivity
In an increasingly digital and interconnected world, the ability to connect with suppliers and customers, as well as between platforms for a unified internal platform, can be a game-changer for SMBs.
Here are three advancements in connectivity solutions for manufacturing that can be used to help SMBs improve and grow in 2023:
- The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): IIoT refers to the industrial network of interconnected devices, sensors, and machines that can collect and transmit data. By utilizing IIoT, manufacturing SMBs can improve efficiency and reduce downtime by gathering data on equipment performance, inventory levels, and production processes.
- Cloud Computing: This technology allows businesses to store, access, and analyze data remotely over the internet. Manufacturing SMBs can use cloud computing to access real-time data, collaborate with suppliers and customers, and manage their operations from anywhere.
- Collaborative Platforms: These online tools allow businesses to connect with and manage projects with suppliers and employees in real time, which can help SMBs streamline their supply chain, improve communication, and reduce costs.
As manufacturing SMBs become more connected, they need to be aware of the increased risk of cyberattacks and ensure that their networks and data are secure from potential threats. Selecting a platform or service that protects your data and your customers’ data will be essential.
Trend 3: Enhanced Emphasis on Data-Driven Decision-Making
Research suggests businesses are 23 times more likely to acquire more customers when they make data-driven decisions. By investing in data analytics tools and integrating them into their operations, manufacturing SMBs can know where to improve to achieve long-term success in their industry.
By implementing analytics tools with powerful ERP systems, manufacturing SMBs can leverage historical data to make cost-effective decisions about inventory management, production planning, and other key business operations. With real-time data, manufacturing SMBs can also monitor their operations instantaneously and make adjustments as needed, allowing them to pivot quickly, which can improve efficiency and help them deliver value more quickly than their competitors.
By collecting and analyzing data on customer behavior and preferences, manufacturing SMBs can also gain important insights. This can help them better understand their target market and develop products and services that meet customer demand.
Trend 4: Increased Flexibility in Operations
With customer and market demands changing so frequently, manufacturing SMBs must be versatile. By adopting a more flexible, agile approach, manufacturing SMBs can respond to changes in customer demand, be equipped to handle employee needs, and be more resilient. For example, SMBs can respond to the increasing frequency of supply chain disruptions by
- diversifying their supplier base,
- adopting just-in-time inventory management, and
- creating contingency plans for potential disruptions.
Manufacturing SMBs can also leverage changing workforce trends—such as increasing adoption of remote work and the “gig economy”—to create a more flexible workforce. This can include hiring freelancers, utilizing remote workers, and creating flexible work arrangements that allow employees to work from anywhere.
Pressing forward into 2023, manufacturing SMBs will need to adapt to new trends to stay competitive and successful. By paying attention to increased automation, improved connectivity, data-driven decision-making, and increased flexibility in operations, SMBs can optimize their production processes and stay on top of changes in the industry.
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ComTec Solutions is a full-service IT services company that has been providing advisory and technical expertise for SMBs in industries such as manufacturing and engineering for nearly 30 years. Companies looking to improve productivity, elevate the customer experience, and accelerate financial growth find value in ComTec’s expertise in Epicor Kinetic, managed IT services, and cybersecurity. ComTec is a proud Platinum Epicor partner and leading Microsoft partner dedicated to helping customers strategically align technology with their desired business outcomes with speed, agility, and confidence. To learn more, contact us today!