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Looking Ahead to Manufacturing Trends in 2019

Take a bow, Manufacturing – you’re looking good!

Over the past eight years, manufacturing created roughly 1.1 million jobs, bouncing back from the sector’s abyss experienced during the Great Recession. More recently, according to the Institute for Supply Management, 17 of the 18 major manufacturing industries have experienced growth, with overall production estimated to grow 2.8-percent over the next three years.

With all things considered – a crippling skills gap, budget-breaking trade policies, etc. – it can be argued that manufacturing overachieved in the past decade. But that overachievement wasn’t by chance – it involved years-long planning and forward thinking from some of the industry’s best and brightest. What spawned from those planning sessions were tools to help manufacturing succeed in a technological world, including Big Data analytics, improving robotics technology, and enabling predictive maintenance.

However as well as manufacturing has done recently, there are plenty of future road bumps. The skills gap will continue to widen – ballooning to 2.4 million jobs unfilled by 2028 – which could cost the US Economy $2.5 trillion in lost revenue over the next decade.

But the manufacturing sector is no stranger to the up’s and down’s of the US Economy. It survived the Great Depression, and fought off the Great Recession. Now, in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, manufacturing looks to continue its massive influence on regional economies nationwide.

With 2019 around the corner, manufacturers are eyeing trends that will grow their overall business, and help them build innovative products.

Anatomy of a Manufacturer InfographicThe Future of Manufacturing: Industry 4.0 Will Continue to Blossom and Streamline Production

Almost 260 years after the First Industrial Revolution, the manufacturing sector is immersed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. More commonly known as Industry 4.0, it focuses on automation and manufacturing technology, including the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cloud computing and cyber-physical systems. These advancements have ushered in a new era of production.

In 2019, Industry 4.0 is expected to make an even larger splash. It is predicted to add between $500 billion and $1.5 trillion in value to the global economy between 2018 and 2022. Much of this comes from more efficient technology, which potentially reduces supply chain errors by 50-percent and lost sales by 65-percent.

Thanks to intelligent manufacturing, data can now be used to make automated decisions, predictions and real-time optimizations across the board, drastically changing how manufacturers make and deliver goods. With lower labor costs, fewer product defects, shorter unplanned downtime, and increased production speed, Industry 4.0 transforms how companies relate to partners at every level of their value chain.

Implementation may be slow, though. The importance of utilizing robotics and computerization is understood, but the reality of updating a more traditional manufacturing environment takes time, capital, and the re-training of current employees.

In With the New: Industry 4.0 Technology is Safer, Smarter and More Efficient

As mentioned previously, technology – such as the cloud, IoT, AI, and machine learning – gets “smarter” by the day. Machines now predict when they will malfunction, or place an alert when supplies are low. While we remain lightyears from a Blade Runner-type machine take over, artificial intelligence plays a huge role in making technology as powerful as it is today.

In recent years, Smart Factories have become a go-to source for inexpensive, reliable labor. Robots eliminate most repetitive, mundane, or dangerous tasks performed by humans and aid in cost-cutting without compromising service quality. While factories used to feature a primarily human workforce with a few machines sprinkled in, that script has flipped, with some Smart Factories being completely autonomous. The role of humans on the production floor has shifted from laborer to the operator/programmer/troubleshooter of complex automated equipment.

New Technology Spurs the Need for Training

With the advance of technology, employers must make time for employees to learn about new, fully-connected, flexible systems like Smart Factory, or be surrounded by a workforce that is unable to keep up on a modern factory floor. So while advancing technology will continue into the New Year, the change won’t happen overnight. Eventually, manufacturers will face a decision: is it more economically responsible to re-train existing workers, or bring in new talent?

According to the Future of Jobs Report 2018, at least 54-percent of all current employees require significant training by 2022. Of those employees requiring training, about 35-percent need training lasting up to 6 months, and about 10-percent need training lasting more than a year.

If companies re-train workers based upon their skill sets in specific areas, the need for eAssessment is vital in order to ensure training efficiency and organizations like the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA), which offer Industry 4.0 certifications for a various industries, will prosper with the integration of advanced manufacturing processes.

Outside of re-training the current workforce, there is an upcoming diverse generation entering the market with new expectations and demands. Some manufacturers will choose to sell young, tech-savvy workers on a career in the ever-evolving, high-tech future of smart manufacturing.

Staying Ahead: Skills Necessary for Industry 4.0 Implementation

Deciding who will make it in the world of manufacturing will rely heavily on one factor: skills employees possess.

Prior to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, seasoned manufacturing employees typically focused on one task, rarely being called upon for training in a different field than what they were accustomed to. Now, members of the older generations are being asked to learn new, developing skills just to keep up.

So what types of technologies should workers be re-trained on to ready themselves for Industry 4.0 jobs?

Much of it will depend upon the sector of work, but some of the most important technologies will revolve around Ethernet and Network Connectivity.

Smart Factories are run through Ethernet, which connects technology throughout all avenues of the company. From merging factory floor Ethernet with the office’s network, to understanding diagnostics when troubleshooting machines, the future of manufacturing will heavily rely upon an I/O Link. Little can be accomplished without it, so understanding basic network technologies will be critical for employee retention.

Basic network technologies can be found in almost every industry, but can vary greatly from one sector to another. For example, the Pharmaceutical industry uses RFID (radio-frequency identification) technologies to locate any potential counterfeit medicine. The Food industry, in turn, relies on Barcode Readers to ensure food is properly tracked, helping eliminate potential food-borne viruses like E.coli.

Having employees re-trained to not only understand this technology, but also troubleshoot any potential disasters, will be key for the success of the company, as well as the longevity of its employees. While automation will continue to advance in manufacturing, human skills of problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity will soon become highly sought-after skills.

Smart Factory, RF Identification, Ethernet and Analog Wiring, and Mechatronics InfographicThe Next Step:

Are you interested in training in some of the areas covered by this article? Then check out some of Amatrol’s one-of-a-kind Learning Systems and technologies on Amatrol.com:

  • Industry 4.0 | A fully-connected, flexible manufacturing system that connects physical systems, operational information, and human assets to control manufacturing, maintenance, inventory, and supply chain operations.
  • Smart Factories | Teaches learners a broad array of job-ready skills in integrated technologies as they work together in a team environment.
  • eAssessment | Revolutionizes technical assessment and training by individually determining a learner’s skill level in specific areas, preventing training overlap and improving efficiency.
  • Ethernet | Amatrol’s Ethernet and Analog Wiring Learning System (85-MT6BC) covers installation, operation, and wiring of Human Machine Interface (HMI) panels, Ethernet switches, and analog inputs.
  • Network Connectivity | Amatrol’s communication system connects students with a fully functional production system using industrial protocols for real-time control, program transfer, data collection, and changing programs on the fly.
  • RFID | Amatrol’s Mechatronics RF Identification Learning System – AB Compact Logix (87-RF1AB53) – covers RFID (Radio-frequency identification) technology and its applications in automated processes popular in industries like automotive, pharmaceutical, and agricultural.
  • Barcode Readers | Amatrol’s Mechatronics Barcode Identification Learning System – CompactLogix L16 (87-BR1AB53A) covers the use and operation of a barcode reader within an automated line to identify components, enter serial numbers in a database, and sort items into groups.

About Wes Scott

Wes Scott is a former public high school teacher and journalist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Wes on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.

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