The manufacturing industry is expected to experience some major trends in 2022 that, if leveraged correctly, can fuel innovation and help businesses stay competitive. This is a brief guide to 5 key manufacturing trends to watch in 2022, and how they can be used to create value with the right technologies.
Trend #1 – AI and Advanced Analytics
Using artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing will be increased specifically for quality control. AI is very promising for visual inspection of parts at different stages of product development process and throughout stations of operations including manufacturing and assembly to meet the specified quality. Traditionally a small number of all manufactured parts are randomly selected, as a demonstrative sample of all manufactured parts, and inspected to detect any possible part defects and variations. In this method, there might be some parts with unnoticed defects since all manufactured parts are not inspected. Using AI allows inspecting all manufactured parts (or most of them) at very high inspection rates that dramatically improves productivity and minimizes opportunities for parts with defects to be unnoticed. Quality inspections of parts and condition monitoring of machines, processes, and systems can be automated. This provides intelligent quality control systems as a very important part of intelligent manufacturing, a current trend that will continue in 2022 and beyond.
Also, with the increasing demand for customization and personalization, AI will become an important technology for manufacturing companies to use the pull system more efficiently using consumer data to produce more personalized products. AI will be more and more used for mass customization and personalization for those consumers who choose to share their preferences.
The internet of things (IoT) and industrial internet of things (IIoT) are increasingly adding value to manufacturing specifically for real-time monitoring of manufacturing operations, predictive maintenance, material handling, supply chain, inventory, assembly, etc. The amount of data generated from IoT and IIoT systems is getting bigger and bigger as the adoption of these systems is ever-increasing, and more and more sensors are embedded in the entire production value chains. Data analytics is key to effectively process the big data generated from real-time monitoring and to make real-time decisions and improvements. Also, adding the power of AI, edge computing, and cloud computing to data analytics will greatly increase manufacturing productivity. As demands for innovative products increases rapidly, using data analytics to understand customer needs, wants, and wishes using prediction models is becoming a must to do. Future-ready manufacturers will increasingly take the advantage of advanced analytics. This can be done through a well-designed continuous improvement approach.
Trend #2 – Automation Becoming More Accessible
For some companies, automation hasn’t been seen as an option for manufacturing products due to not having enough financial resources for the initial investment required. The cost of automation is decreasing because of technological advances and innovations. This allows more and more manufacturing companies to leverage the advantages of automation in terms of precision, repeatability, efficiency, and productivity. Also, automation is increasingly powered by IoT, IIoT, data analytics, and AI technologies that makes it more attractive to manufacturers. The success of companies that have been using automation will encourage other companies to invest in automation. Manufacturing companies need to make more data-driven decisions and find out what to automate based on their priorities and the value to be created. Although in 2022, more companies consider automation as a priority to stay competitive, it is important to note that not every task should be automated.
Trend #3 – Robots
Robots have been increasingly used in manufacturing industry for decades. Industrial robots are known for their high speed and precision in
doing repetitive tasks with minimal or no human interactions. As this trend will continue to increase precision and productivity in manufacturing industry, manufacturers will utilize increasingly emerging types of robots such as collaborative robots (Cobots) and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) or autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to increase agility, flexibility, and built-in quality. These robots not only work with humans but also allow people to focus on more creative and innovative tasks for a competitive edge. Therefore, intelligent robots will be increasingly used in manufacturing that is an interesting trend to watch. In addition, utilizing more robots will increase the opportunities to work remotely, that itself is a trend to be continued in 2022.
Trend #4 – Supply Chain Nearshoring
The world has experienced big challenges around supply chain in 2020 and 2021. The ripple effect of supply chain challenges will continue to impose difficulties in manufacturing industry. Manufacturers tend to use local suppliers to address some of the supply chain challenges. While this may increase the costs of products, it can be seen as an opportunity to increase agility, flexibility, and quality that will result in increased customer satisfaction. Therefore, onshoring is a trend to continue in 2022 as a part of globalization to localization strategy. This trend will accelerate the concept of distributed manufacturing or local manufacturing that is a very consumer-centric approach to meet ever-increasing customer expectations.
Also, nearshoring, distributed supply chain and logistics will result in eliminating single sourcing dependency and improving resiliency and
reliability that is specifically required in sudden changes and instabilities. Manufacturing companies revisit their existing business models and strategies and look for innovative solutions to stay competitive in terms of cost, quality, and delivery time. Automating supply chain processes, utilizing the power of partnership and collaboration, using omnichannel systems, realizing an effective and efficient inventory management powered by digital technologies for a greater visibility, flexibility, and resiliency are some worth considering solutions for manufacturing companies to think about in 2022.
Trend #5 – Digital Transformation
Digital transformation is about modernizing traditional systems, retrofitting legacy equipment, and leveraging the power of advanced sensors, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and digital technologies to improve quality, efficiency, and productivity that are essential to creating more value and remaining competitive.
Along with other important technologies, attention towards virtual twins of products as well as factory operations is increasing since they can be used at any level to increase real-time visibility and achieve peak performance and optimization. Utilizing IoT, IIoT, data analytics, AI, and virtual twins require using sensors to sense and monitor the environment, parts, machines, systems, etc. Digital tools and technologies are needed to show the data taken by a wide variety of sensors as well as to show the results obtained from different analyses for better decision making fueled by real-time visibility. Visualizing the collected data and the results of analyses is key to making effective decisions. Therefore, we will see more manufacturers invest in digital transformation in 2022. As more and more manufacturing companies see digital transformation as a competitive edge and they embrace the advantages of Industry 4.0, we will see a fast pace in digital transformation. It is important to note that digital transformation no longer can be avoided and manufacturers should consider embracing this trend as a high priority to remain competitive.
In order to leverage the advantages of advanced technologies, implement plans effectively, and stay competitive, it is very important for manufacturing companies to create a people development culture and take a human-centered approach, because the role of people is a key factor across any technical solution to achieving operational excellence in manufacturing. Technology should empower people and give them the ability to continuously realize their better version in all aspects of their lives specifically in terms of creativity and innovation.
Download our 2021 progress report on virtual twins in manufacturing.