Top 5 Manufacturing Technology Trends That Impact Your Supply Chain

By Chris Young
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With rising competition, the pressure to globalize, growing consumer expectations, and a talent shortage, today’s manufacturing landscape is more challenging than ever. To adapt and keep up with these changing demands, every manufacturer, from electronics to food processing, is looking to technology to automate key supply chain processes and improve their products, from the shop floor to the customer experience.  

These exciting new technologies transform the way manufacturers work; however, they require time, money, and even new resources to produce results. Without the massive IT budgets of a large global enterprise, navigating the path to innovative technology for mid-sized manufacturers is not always clear.  

At Clients First, we believe that any decision around technology needs to be well-planned and executed to minimize risk and provide you with the highest return on investment. With our experience working with many manufacturers, we have seen firsthand some of today’s most common issues facing the supply chain. With that in mind, our manufacturing and data management experts have shared the top 5 manufacturing trends this year to capitalize on – that are actually attainable for mid-sized manufacturers. 

What’s Wrong with the Supply Chain?  

Manufacturers rely on the smooth operation of sophisticated supply chains to build and move quality finished products quickly and efficiently. As supply chains continue to grow in complexity, manufacturers are forced to overcome several critical areas in strategy, service, and cost in order to compete on a global scale and remain profitable. Here are 7 challenges that continue to appear in the supply chain for mid-sized manufacturers:  

  1. Data Management  
    Standalone, disparate data from multiple systems impacts your ability to gather insights from your supply chain performance and make strategic decisions that affect profitability.   
  1. Process Automation 
    Manual processes affect the speed, performance, accuracy, accountability, and overall operational effectiveness in your supply chain.  
  1. Cost Control  
    Due to rising fuel and freight costs, global distribution, new regulations, and increased commodity prices, managers are under pressure to track data and reduce costs wherever possible.   
  1. Customer Service  
    Lack of visibility into customers, inventory, and logistics impacts the top line more than ever in this era of consumer customization and rapidly growing demands for improved speed, quality, and service.   
  1. Risk Management  
    From quality control and product traceability to economic instability, connectivity, and transportation delays, supply chains are vulnerable if not re-evaluated continuously and updated.   
  1. Sustainability  
    The goal of sustainability in the supply chain is to save money on materials and labor to increase profits and productivity. Without business intelligence or data analysis, manufacturers are not able to optimize their processes.  
  1. Talent  
    Qualified supply chain professionals that manage the manufacturing, movement, and storage of a product can be hard to find and retain.  

To succeed in the modern world, mid-sized manufacturers need a strategy for why, when, and how they will invest in new technology. The ability to provide the best quality product to the right person at the right time–while analyzing performance, maintaining supplier relationships, and keeping costs under control– requires manufacturers assess their existing processes and update their systems with technology that deliver real and measurable business benefit. 

5 Realistic Technology Trends for Growing Manufacturers  

Mid-sized manufacturers are technologically diverse. Whether you work in food processing or manufacturing industrial equipment, not every technology trend will fit your operations or budget.  

Instead of telling you to invest millions of dollars in an automated robotic smart factory, we have put together a list of achievable manufacturing trends that will evolve the way you design, produce, sell, source, and supply products.  

Here are our top 5 technology trends for mid-sized manufacturers to consider this year:  

  1. Data Analysis  
    Big data is here to stay because business intelligence is the fastest way to see a return on your investment. With increased data access, end-to-end supply chain visibility, and accurate reporting, you can quickly adapt to changes in the industry and make fast, strategic decisions.   
    Learn more 
  1. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality  
    VR and AR have evolved significantly over the last few years, and now this technology is being used everywhere from the breakroom to the manufacturing floor. By leveraging a completely immersive experience, VR and AR solutions are being used to assist in staff training, virtual assembly and process design, and equipment maintenance or repair.  
    Learn more 
  1. EndtoEnd Supply Chain Integration 
    The goal of the digital supply chain is to break down data silos and fully integrate every aspect in the movement of goods. With the IoT, seamless communication between departments, vendors, and outside partners is possible.  
    Learn more 
  1. Intercompany Training    
    Going into 2021, manufacturers are leveraging automation to fix the issue of finding skilled workers. They are using technology to reorganize, reskill, and upskill current employees to reinvest back into the company and bridge the gap between shop floor and office.   
    Learn more 
  1. 5G Connectivity  
    5G is an affordable, reliable, and scalable network that accommodates massive amounts of bandwidth for real-time data processing. A decade in the making, this manufacturing technology trend can help you evolve at the rapid pace you need to compete on a global scale.   
    Learn more 

Take Advantage of These Manufacturing Trends  

There is no getting around it, modern manufacturers must invest in technology to stay ahead of the competition. The good news is, that doesn’t mean investing millions of dollars in fancy technology with an ambiguous success rate. A more in-depth look at these 5 technology-driven manufacturing trends will show you that a few changes to your systems and processes can deliver high impact results.   

Download this whitepaper for more details into each of these trends, as well as expert tips on how to get started!  

Chris Young

Chris Young

Partner, Clients First Business Solutions New Jersey

Chris Young is your go-to resource for all things Dynamics NAV and Dynamics 365 Business Central at Clients First. Highly skilled in ERP solution architecture and financial planning, Chris has spent the last 30 years helping clients select and implement the right financial, manufacturing, and distribution software for their needs. When he’s not presenting to captivated crowds or sharing his knowledge through product demos, you can find Chris in the garage working on a car or fixing something around the house.