10 technology trends for SMB manufacturers in 2018 (infograph)

    Clara Cabrera
    February 27, 2018

     Time flies and we are already almost two full months into 2018. Nevertheless, it is not too late to take a look into the top 10 technology trends that can make a difference in your SMB manufacturing in 2018. In 2017 we were introduced to IIOT, 3D printing, automation, an increase of e-commerce, cyber security and emerging market. It is in this year, however, that these trends will find their consolidation and thus change the manufacturing landscape for good.

    2017 ended with 70% of manufacturers in the US feeling more optimistic about manufacturing compared to the last twelve months, with SMB owners having to think globally due to larger reaches of their business facilitated by the latest tech advances. Now that we have considered how last year’s developments smoothed the path to some of these trends, let’s take a further look into them and see which of them and which others made it into the top 10 technology trends in 2018: 

    1) IIOT (Industrial Internet of things).

    The combination of sensors, machine to machine, automation and software connected in a logical and efficient manner can provide real time info of your factory floor. For SMB manufacturers this means that IIOT can provide predictive maintenance, optimize maintenance in real time, self-optimizing production and automated inventory management. 

    With just plan it, we will not (yet) go the full IIOT route. However, we intend launching (later this year) an app that will help customers to bring real-time information from the shop-floor into the schedule. This app will help integrating the processes of production scheduling and execution.

    2) Cyber security.

    Cyber security will be taken more seriously, as the number of internet-connected services and devices has increased along with the subsequent risks. SMB manufacturers will need to get ahead of potential system weaknesses, as data breaches cost money and reputation.

    3) Blockchain.

    Blockchain comes to manufacturing. Technology creates a way for digital information to be stored, recorded and distributed which makes it almost impossible to falsify or copy it. Applied to an SMB manufacturing context, this means that blockchain can be used to register, certify and track shipped goods as transactions are verified and time stamped, which will help build trust between partners and customers and reduce risks. 

    4) Robot support presence or cobots (collaborative robots).

    With the advancements robots are smaller and more affordable. It will allow replacing part of the human workforce, enabling it to focus on more creative and complex work. 

    5) Augmented reality.

    Augmented reality to simulate production. It will provide insight of the process and point potential weak spots. It will also ensure that the process delivers exactly what the manufacturer intended to create. 

    6) Apps for SMB manufacturers.

    These are easy-to-use apps to help workers achieve more with less effort. These apps are also needed as freelancing is becoming a more popular role model within many SMB manufacturers. There will be no time to train workers who are just employed when production demands requires it.

    Our just plan it software was built “app-style” and very visual so that users can quickly learn and understand it. In 2018, we intend to release an app to integrate the schedule with real-time shop-floor data. 

    7) Artificial intelligence.

    Rather than focusing its use exclusively for maintenance management purposes the new trend shifts AI as a part of customer service to enable customizations on clients’ shopping experience and also applies it to non-traditional shopping channels, for example, voice-activated system apps such as Alexa.

    8) 3D printing.

    3D printing enables the creation of products using a single machine and save manufacturers time and budget during the prototype product development process.

    9) Drone delivery and autonomous trucking explorations.

    No more words needed ;-) 

    10) Next generation of manufacturers.

    8 out of 10 executives surveyed say they don’t have many Millennials currently in their workforce. There is a common misconception among the new generation when thinking about a career in manufacturing. The modern plant is clean, safe and uses “exciting technology”. In order to combat this skill shortage, SMBs are putting focus on developing mentorship programs and employee training as it is necessary to spread the idea that SMBs are fully inserted in the leading technology context.

    An example on how to attract Millennials could be through apps applied to manufacturing, as that is an up-to-date tech and something the new generations can understand. Let’s take our just plan it app, for instance; it’s is built as modern, “clean” and easy-to-understand technology that helps the new generation manage the processes and plants of the previous generation … and hence helps bringing the SMB manufacturing century on a new level.

    This infograph summarizes the top 10 technology trends for SMB manufacturers in 2018.

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    What kind of technology trends do you see for your shop? Please share with me in the comments.

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