Many factors are critical to the transformation of the manufacturing process, and Dr Joanne Phoenix, Interim Executive Director at Sensor City, delivers the trends that will lead the manufacturing Industry in 2019.

  1. Industry – university collaboration

There has long been an understanding of the value of industry/university collaborations; however, until recently this was limited to a few select partnerships. In 2019, links between industry and academia will continue to strengthen as both sides seek to use the resources and expertise of the other to enhance their own offerings and increase their understanding of the theoretical and practical applications of new technologies.

  1. IoT expansion

It’s widely accepted that the Internet of Things (IoT) market is growing at an exponential rate and becoming the norm for many, with 3.6 billion connected devices used for daily tasks this year. In 2019, we can expect this growth to continue to spread. Boosted by 5G connectivity and advances in sensor technology, the manufacturing industry will see more IoT devices than ever before to drive forward the industrial revolution.

  1. Cyber security

Cyber threats will continue to dominate technology spending. As companies become more digital, and increase their connected footprint, they will be ever more exposed to cyber criminals. At the same time, they need to balance the need for security with the need to be able to innovate. Businesses will need to develop new ways of securing their operations, with a growing realisation that the firewall approach isn’t fit for purpose, either in preventing breaches or allowing them to be more agile.

  1. AR and VR enhancement

The majority of manufacturers, or those working in the sector, have encountered some form of virtual or augmented reality in recent years. Whether it’s quirky start-ups or large-scale global brands, we are set to see more of this technology incorporated into existing processes and products to enhance overall experience. We will continue to see new companies emerge, identifying innovative ways of adopting it, while established organisations will mine their business to uncover areas of improvement.

  1. Blockchain boom

Underheard of by anybody outside the cryptocurrency-sphere until 2017-18, blockchain is now taking the manufacturing world by storm. The coming year will see a direct impact of blockchain on financial operations, boosting speed, security and a cost-effective solution to transactions. Looking at the supply chain, blockchain technologies will also influence different areas from management, tracking and transaction reporting.

  1. 5G rollout

5G will deliver huge improvements in download speeds, latency reduction and the ability to remotely control a vast array of devices. 2019 will be the year that the groundwork and preparation for 5G rollout really picks up, with the potential for the beginning of a limited rollout by the end of the year. For manufacturers looking to fully invest in IoT this will be a huge gamechanger, giving them true real time control and insights and, from that, the ability to make faster, more impactful decisions.

  1. AI/Machine Learning

With the increased adoption of IoT will come an increase in the amount of data manufacturers produce. Data may be the crude oil of the 21st century, but without the ability to analyse and action based on tangible, accurate insights, it’s simply taking up space. That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning comes in – having the ability to manage volumes of data, generate legible insights and proffer solutions will greatly increase manufacturers’ responsiveness, improving efficiency and helping identify new business opportunities. All this means that 2019 will see ever more importance attached to manufacturers’ ability to incorporate AI and machine learning into their operations.

  1. Workforce of the future

Digitalisation holds great promise for manufacturers, yet it isn’t an off the shelf solution. Any sort of transformation is as much about the people implementing it as it is about the technology. With digital skills a scarce resource, manufacturers need to be investing now to ensure that they are building a workforce of the future. 2019 will see increased investment in digital training, both internally and in partnership with centres of education, such as universities and accelerators. Partnering with complementary businesses will also help bring knowledge into businesses in a cost-effective manner.

  1. Better diversity

2018 saw the continuation of a major conversation and focus on diversity across all levels of society. From a manufacturing perspective, the business case is clear – an organisation is likely to perform better financially if its workforce is more diverse. Diversity is going to continue to be top of the agenda for many years to come, and with greater public awareness will come increased government scrutiny and tougher legislation. Forward thinking businesses will pre-empt this by implementing more rigorous and impactful programmes to accelerate the diversification of their workforces.

  1. Investment / funding for SMEs

As established enterprises wrestle with becoming more innovative and agile, ‘buying in’ that mindset and approach will be an increasingly attractive option. For start-ups and SMEs, the benefit is being able to access funding and support from a wide range of sources and being able to tap into the much wider resources of larger organisations, without necessarily compromising their independence. Whether through financial investment, accessing IP or simply agreeing a mutual sharing of resources, 2019 will see increased partnerships and collaborations between established manufacturers and smaller operators.

This article was first published in Global Manufacturing.

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