For decades, much has been written and discussed about what the future holds for manufacturing in the United States. It’s an emotionally and politically charged conversation.
Despite what many predicted as facing an inevitable demise, manufacturing in the U.S. is experiencing a revival. Many economists and futurists are insisting that we’re entering a period that’s being dubbed Industry 4.0 — the next great Industrial Revolution. It’s an entirely new manufacturing world that involves smart manufacturing, robotics and artificial intelligence with a key driver being the Internet of Things (IoT).
It’s an exciting time to be a manufacturer as we celebrate Manufacturing Day on Oct. 6 — a celebration of modern manufacturing that’s meant to inspire the next generation of creating and producing. In 2016, U.S. manufacturers produced about $5.4 trillion worth of products (in constant 2009 dollars), according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The manufacturing industry today is continuously evolving, with traditional tried and true concepts being rendered inadequate and outdated. Digitization and integration are ruling the manufacturing floor. It’s the engine that is the impetus for future investments in machinery, software and talent to fuel the growth.
The products being manufactured are increasingly more complex and provide greater value to end users. They’re being manufactured faster with higher levels of predictability. It is no coincidence that an increased percentage of manufacturing is being “reshored” back to the U.S. as the country marches toward taking over the top spot from China in the Global Manufacturing Competiveness Index.
This new manufacturing world, which is borne out of Industry 4.0, offers a multitude of challenges and opportunities for manufacturers. It requires keen understanding of developing a manufacturing ecosystem that fully capitalizes on the promise of what analytics and connectivity mean for the business.
No longer is it sufficient to rely on producing a product and realizing recurring maintenance income as the core revenue-generating model. The future of manufacturing is going to involve condition-based maintenance with real time monitoring of the manufactured products. Software, sensors, data analytics and network technologies have the very real potential to virtually transform the production life cycle.
I truly believe that we’re on the cusp of significant breakthroughs in manufacturing with a future that is digitally driven. It will ensure the viability and vitality of manufacturing in the future.
Preparing for the factory of the future is a formidable endeavor that involves forward thinking and significant capital investments in new production capabilities and human capital.
Streamlining and improving processes need to be ongoing. The moment you become complacent translates into losing your edge. It’s a new world in manufacturing that’s intensely competitive.
The careers in manufacturing today are far different than even 10 years ago. Manufacturers must actively recruit the brightest minds that have deep-seated competencies in STEM. We have to attract those who consider technology-focused areas of the country as being the only place to work.
It involves education on what can be accomplished in the sphere of manufacturing. Talent development and retention of employees who are skilled and educated is an initiative that requires total buy-in across the manufacturing enterprise.
Manufacturers everywhere are building on the identified model for manufacturing in the future. Advanced technologies and materials are changing products daily. The need to embrace smart technologies is critical.
The potential that comes with greater implementation of Big Data analytics, coupled with the explosion of the IoT, presents boundless opportunities. This is truly a great time to be a manufacturer.
John Viskup is president and CEO of Victory Energy Operations in Collinsville.
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