Manufacturing 2020 predictions

By Rafi Billurcu, Partner, Manufacturing at Infosys Consulting. 

Brexit

Manufacturing leaders must prepare accordingly for Brexit, regardless of how uncertain the outcome is. Changes in tax and trade regulations means organisations must take corrective action to make supply chains more future-proof and efficient. 

While devaluation of GBP will make UK exports more attractive, organisations must carefully consider where to export and what to export, depending upon the market needs, competitive landscape and margins. It will become less feasible to import all the intermediary goods or raw materials, so organisations must re-think their strategic sourcing and play a key role in identifying, nurturing and developing the supplier base in the UK.

5G

Following 5G’s widespread rollout, next year we can expect this to become a critical enabler for fulfilling the biggest promise of Industry 4.0: cyber-physical systems, which are the convergence of the physical and digital world through connected devices. This will make factories more efficient, safer, and will make it easier for humans to collaboratively work with machines. Despite various challenges, 5G will be able to offer the ultra-reliable low latency connectivity that Industry 4.0, AI and big data analytics will rely on to deliver this future. Through better connectivity between machines – enabled by thousands of sensors – 5G will help make real-time decisions within a fraction of a second. 

Smart factories

Embedding IoT technologies into machines promises to transform run-of-the-mill manufacturing facilities into smart factories. The impact of this will be seen across all aspects of operations in 2020, from asset management and machine maintenance to planning, quality control, and even field service. With smart sensors already being rolled out, particularly IoT technology, we’ll start seeing more real-time monitoring of machines. But predictive maintenance isn’t possible with sensors alone. Employing artificial intelligence alongside IoT will enhance this, and, integrated with machine learning, this will enable a more sustainable system that can learn over time and provide an even better return on investment. Applied across the entire supply chain, this technology could save millions.

Increased energy efficiency

2020 will see greater investment in technologies to improve energy efficiency in factories. For example, the rise of intelligent factory floors, where different IoT sensors can monitor and control a facility’s energy consumption through more intelligent lighting, heating and air conditioning. As for artificial intelligence, the best use of this requires investment in equipment upgrades to intelligently schedule the use of certain machines at off-peak times when energy prices are lower. If scaled across multiple parts of the production line, this will reduce overall energy consumption and enable sustainability targets to be hit, all while significantly reducing energy costs. 

Agile manufacturing

We’re already seeing the whole manufacturing industry undergoing a shift towards agile manufacturing, moving from B2B to B2C models – and even towards B2B2C models. In 2020, we can expect to see organisations continue to build additional capabilities to enhance their customer offering. This will be through offering different kinds of innovative services and reducing the focus on the product. These strategies will enable organisations to tap into new revenue pools through targeting new customer segments, meaning they can achieve better margins, establish continuous revenue streams and differentiate themselves from the competition.

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