Whether you realize it or not, manufacturing is the cornerstone of economic growth. The literal definition of manufacturing is defined as “the process that transitions raw materials into physical products.” And there are many ways that manufacturing impacts our economy. For starters, it can introduce jobs in any country, regardless of population, and can also introduce foreign currency to countries that need it most.
Today, manufacturing is such a hot topic because it’s undergoing the greatest transformation its seen in the last century. In fact, Klaus Schwab, a well-known German engineer and economist, has been credited with referring to our current time as the “fourth industrial revolution.” And there are many reasons why. Here’s just a sampling of what you can expect for the future of manufacturing:
3D printing has an important and pivotal role in the future of manufacturing. With 3D printing, companies are able to seamlessly create complex products and parts using a single machine. It has tremendous potential for the future of mass production. It even has a more positive impact on the environment than current tech: it reduces waste by scaling back transportation and wait time for parts, recycles plastics, and eliminates unnecessary production.
Today’s 3D printers aren’t just able to print plastic, but other materials like metal as well. Companies like General Electric are already taking advantage of this technology, but as it becomes more mainstream and affordable, you can expect smaller businesses to also incorporate into their supply chain. This impacts the industry in many ways.
For starters, manufacturers will be able to print products on-demand, including products that are no longer mass-produced (like older models). This means they won’t have to keep large inventories and waste unnecessary cash. It would also allow them to develop stronger and lighter products, adapt to a much wider range of needs, and create intricate patterns that are difficult with today’s technology.
Low Startup Costs
Today’s new manufacturing businesses are seeking low-cost ways to keep their companies manufacturing capabilities stateside, rather than starting overseas and having to reshore. Much of the modern manufacturing tech can be purchased at a discounted priced, like the used waterjets here. In fact, there are several cost-efficient manufacturing businesses you could start for anywhere between $10,000 to $50,000.
These low-cost businesses include 3D printing, bioplastic packaging, small hole machining, organic herbal cosmetic creams, and much more. Because of this, more businesses are exploring ways they can create their own manufacturing processes, rather than go through the tedious process of searching for third-party partnerships where a great deal of trust is necessary and some control feels relinquished.
Artificial Intelligence & Robotic Machines
According to the Manufacturing Institute, there will be 3.5 million manufacturing jobs in the United States within the next 10 years—and they estimate that 2 million of those jobs will go unfulfilled. As you might expect, those positions need to be filled in creative ways, and in the next decade, artificial intelligence is expected to pick up the slack.
The FANUC plant in Oshino, Japan, is a stellar example of this, and is way ahead of its time. In this plant, 5,000 manufacturing robots are created per month, making the number of robots in the plant outnumber local residents 7:1. And what’s even more interesting is that these robots are capable of creating their own offspring—digital versions of themselves that are equally as intelligent. While robots have been around for quite some time, no longer are their tasks delegated to monotonous, repetitive motions. Now, they are able to under smart supply chain systems and perform real-time maintenance on complex machinery.
A survey conducted by Forbes found that many people share the same sentiments about the future of manufacturing and the connection to artificial intelligence. Forty-four percent of respondents from the automotive and manufacturing industries considered AI as “highly important” to the manufacturing area in the next five years, while nearly half of respondents said it was “absolutely critical to success.”
More Reshoring Will Occur
Although the general perspective of the manufacturing industry is that most jobs will go to overseas workers, the truth is, many of those jobs are returning stateside. The process of returning from offshore production is referred to as reshoring, and there are several reasons this is becoming an increasing trend in the industry. Some of these are due to major hidden costs, tax tariffs, rising costs of offshore labor, and growing interested in locally produced product. According to one data report, the United States lost around 200,000 manufacturing jobs between 2000-2007, however, a rebalance came into effect between 2014 and 2015, when around 265,000 manufacturing jobs were reshored.