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Agility in Manufacturing: The Drivers to Manufacturing Innovation

In today's fast-paced world, manufacturing agility is a must-have. Consumer preferences are rapidly shifting, new technologies are emerging, and supply chain shocks come out of nowhere. To stay ahead, manufacturers need the ability to respond swiftly to market changes and get innovative products to market faster. What's driving this need for speed and adaptability?

Technological Advances

New technologies are disrupting traditional manufacturing processes and enabling greater customization and flexibility. Advances in materials science have led to innovative composites and alloys that are lighter, stronger and more durable. For example, carbon fiber composites can be over 10 times stronger than steel while weighing much less.


Smart manufacturing techniques like 3D printing allow for rapid prototyping and custom production without the need for retooling. According to a report by Lux Research, the additive manufacturing market is projected to grow to $51 billion by 2030. The use of collaborative robots and autonomous mobile robots gives manufacturers the ability to easily reconfigure production lines. Global market revenue grew by 17.2% to US$954m in 2022, with shipments increasing by 21.9% to 37,780 units, according to Interact Analysis. And predictive analytics tools help model demand more accurately. By 2026, IDC predicts global spending on cognitive/AI systems will surpass $300 billion. All of these technologies provide opportunities for manufacturers to design innovative products and bring them to market faster.


Demand for Customization

Gone are the days of "one-size-fits-all" products. Consumers increasingly want personalized products tailored to their preferences. According to a Deloitte review, 1 in 5 consumers want customized products and are willing to pay a premium for them. An Allied Market Research report says that the global custom manufacturing market is expected to grow to $1,350.2 billion by 2031, making customization one of the biggest trends in manufacturing.


For instance, many dental clinics use 3D printing to create custom-fitted dental implants that are more precise and durable than traditional implants. 3D-printed dental implants can be tailored to the individual needs of the patient, taking into account their jaw structure and the specific type of implant they need.

Another example is the Nike By You program, that allows customers to customize their own Nike shoes. Customers can choose the style, color, and materials of their shoes, and even add their own personal touches, such as initials or a custom logo.


Supply Chain Disruptions

Recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic and trade wars have shown how vulnerable global supply chains can be to unexpected disruptions. With lean, just-in-time manufacturing, any shock to the supply chain can bring production to a halt. Building a resilient supply chain is critical for manufacturers today. This involves diversifying suppliers, increasing inventory buffers, and having backup production plans that can be rapidly implemented.


Manufacturing agility requires the flexibility to swiftly change suppliers or manufacturing locations when disruptions occur. Technologies like supply chain control towers and digital twins of operations can provide the visibility needed to respond quickly when shocks hit. According to Gartner, by 2027 over 40% of large global companies will use digital twins in their projects to increase revenue.


SOLUTIONS

Fortunately, advanced technologies and software solutions are enabling manufacturers to overcome these challenges and achieve new levels of agility.


Increased Manufacturing Automation

Automation and smart manufacturing techniques are making factories more nimble. Modular machines can be reconfigured to produce different products and collaborative robots can work flexibly alongside humans. According to market research, the industrial robotics market is valued at $17 billion in 2023 and is projected to reach $32.5 billion by 2028.


However, automation can also be a double-edged sword if not implemented thoughtfully. Heavy investment in automated systems that are relatively inflexible can restrict future agility by making change more difficult and expensive. The key is finding the right balance between automation and human workforces to maintain both efficiency and adaptability.


IoT sensors enable predictive maintenance and real-time supply chain visibility. A report by PwC says that, on average, predictive maintenance in factories could reduce costs by 12%, extend the lifetime of an aging asset by 20% and reduce safety, health, environment & quality risks by 14%.


Software-Driven Innovation

Software and AI are transforming manufacturing. Digital platforms automate the handoff between product lifecycle stages that previously required manual data transfers. This seamless workflow integration accelerates production speed and minimizes errors. Some software solutions even enable closed-loop optimizations using real-time production data. The insights derived can inform continual refinements to manufacturing processes over time. For instance, Authentise's software integrates disparate manufacturing procedures into a unified workflow. By bridging islands of information across the production chain, it enables rapid and efficient manufacturing.


The flexibility of software-based tools allows manufacturers to react swiftly to changes and new demands. Software is indispensable for enabling the speed, customization and agility that define next-generation manufacturing.


Collaborative Ecosystems & Data-Driven Decision-Making

The shift from isolated to collaborative manufacturing is apparent as industries embrace partnerships and data-driven decisions. For instance, the integration of AI-infotainment systems in vehicles is now a reality thanks to alliances between car makers and tech firms.


In this collaborative landscape, data is king, enabling predictive maintenance and optimized supply chains. However, harnessing the full potential of this data requires robust communication platforms. Here's where Authentise Threads shines. Unlike regular chat tools, Threads facilitates in-depth discussions, document sharing, and event tracking among teams, all within a secure environment. It's not just about conversation; it’s about structured, actionable dialogues that drive projects forward.


Adopting Threads means not only stepping up communication but also fostering a culture of open collaboration and data-centric decision-making, essential in the modern manufacturing landscape. With Threads, the journey from solitary operations to a united, insight-driven ecosystem becomes an attainable reality.

The pace of change today demands that manufacturers become fast, flexible and constantly innovating. By leveraging emerging technologies and putting the customer at the center, companies can transform themselves into agile players that thrive on change rather than being disrupted by it.

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