New Decade Will Bring New Manufacturing Technologies & Techniques

Supply chain digitization will be essential for growth and every manufacturer and supply chain company must be prepared with an agile approach toward integrative strategies to drive success.

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Editor's note: Mark Dohnalek is President & CEO of Pivot International, the Kansas-based global product development, engineering & manufacturing firm.

The New Year of 2020 marks the first day of an exciting new decade. It's hard to believe that we will be 20 years into the new century. It doesn't seem that long ago American companies and government agencies were preparing for the transition from the 1900s to the 2000s. Back then, moving technology-built systems caused chaotic concerns with worries about everything from cash withdrawals to coffee pots. It was estimated $100 billion was spent to get ready for Y2K problems and it worked.

Two decades later, we have seen manufacturing and supply chain advances reach heights that weren't even dreamed of by business leaders from long ago. From the speed of automation to 3D printing to VR and AI – so what can we expect to see more of in the 2020s? Below are my trend predictions as we begin a new decade:

More 3D Printing

When 3D (aka additive) printing arrived on the scene, it was fascinating but not every manufacturing executive was convinced of its effectiveness. In a short time, that changed and factories discovered when they had access to this technology, it greatly accelerated the product development process. We can expect even more use of 3D printing, especially in prototyping, because it saves both time and money by producing product iterations faster.

More Robotics

Like 3D printing, robotics can automate the physical trial-and-error method. For instance, a manufacturer that works with chemicals can transform their process with liquid-handling robots that can automatically pipette. Robots also do not need to sleep or work in light. They can perform tasks nearly 24/7, increasing production time and cutting costs.

AR and VR

Augmented and virtual reality will give manufacturers the ability to speed up their design processes, reduce their development costs, and iteratively test multiple variations of a product. Advances in AR and VR will create enhanced ways for streamlining design processes. This will lead to immense savings in costs and resources while making strategic product improvements throughout each phase of the design and build.

Supply Chain selection, planning and sourcing

The next decade will give us a keener window into our needs for production, deliverables, and distribution. Sourcing has a way of being complicated and lengthy but new and future technologies will simplify and accelerate this process. For instance, with decentralized manufacturing, multiple facilities cover one area, so the products are manufactured and distributed nearby. While enterprise resource planning (ERP) software can track resource allocation, it becomes difficult when there are multiple systems. To manage this, we can expect blockchain to play a bigger role to unify databases across organizations and is already being used by major food companies enabling them to improve food safety and reduce the amount of time to track shipments.

Quality Assurance

Technology will have an even greater role on quality assurance across manufacturing facilities. Computer vision can detect issues and defects that humans may potentially miss. Today AI is being used to uncover production errors and we can expect this to continue and become even more common. Specifically, this will be very influential in finding mistakes in electronics manufacturing that are not physically visible to the human eye. Technologically enabled QA is already showing benefits and will continue to be a force.

Optimism is abundant across our industry as we ring in the New Year and start the next decade. Supply chain digitization will be essential for growth and every manufacturer and supply chain company must be prepared with an agile approach toward integrative strategies to drive success.


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