Most predicted Manufacturing trends for this year did not prepare the industry enough for the unforeseeable situation that marked 2020 as one of the most challenging years to strive in business.  Even in retrospect, 2019 was not a very flourishing year for manufacturers. A PWC study in the UK called last year’s investment strategies as needing certainty in an age of doubt.  As the economy weakens, the leading industrial manufacturers must demonstrate their commitment to growing in the upcoming years. 

The focus should continue to be on mobility and quick adaptability to an ever-changing business landscape, by: 

  • reinforcing skills in all areas 
  • implementing viable software solutions  
  • building sustainable business models 

Here are 9 challenges that currently shape how 2021 will unfold in the Industrial Manufacturing field.  

9 challenges for Industrial Manufacturing 

1. Talented workforce gap  

Manufacturers need workers with high technological skills. But because of the uncertainty level marking this industry in 2020, the gap between the skilled workforce needed to assure productivity and the existing demand for such positions remains a challenge. 

Yes, implementing newer technologies should mean that manufacturing companies require less manual workforce, especially when it comes to machine sensors, automated data processing or AI solutions. Nevertheless, companies rely on workers with various skillsets for tasks that cannot be automated. 

2. Reacting to COVID-19  

The effects of COVID-19 have affected manufacturing from start to finish. Even with a field-proven strategy, it is difficult to adequately counter the rapid factors of the pandemic: isolation, travel restrictions, school closures and so on.  

More than that, the shift in retail from mortar-and-brick stores has severely impacted companies and rushed them towards a digital approach. Now that the end consumer’s behaviour has shifted, manufacturers must adapt their business to cater to changing needs and expectations. 

3. Updating software  

Updated software frameworks offer adaptability, scalability and speed. This gives employees the advantage of using applications more easily and increases productivity. 

On the production line, all tasks are about cost, time, and quality. Therefore, these operations will generally be inflexible and strictly controlled. Manufacturers who fail to optimize processes and improve the user experience of their employees run an increasing risk of losing many dollars in expected benefits and income.  

It makes sense to consider how an updated software with a user-friendly interface will make employees happier and directly impact the business performance in a positive manner.  

4.  Flexible supply chain  

Two of the top concerns of the manufacturers are the customer experience and the quality and usability of their product. To live up to customer expectations, there must be a granular approach that persists throughout a flexible supply chain.  

Supply chains are becoming increasingly complex, especially for expanding companies. Manufacturers need to deal with unpredictability, growing pressure from customers and obstacles that will continue to cause manufacturers great difficulties in the near future.   

5. Dealing with changing laws  

New laws have always been a source of changes for all industries. Because of COVID-19, the regulations and protection measures that must be implemented are changing on a recurring basis.  

To ensure the security of their employees and clients, while keeping the business operational, manufacturers must stay informed and be ready to adapt to the current situation.  

6. Client self-service applications 

The challenges of lost receipts and complaints about delivered goods are common in this industry. Lacking a self-service application forces customers to contact the manufacturer every time they need to access their data or issue a request. This has led to many disappointing experiences for customers that must wait in line, make multiple phone calls, or find ways to solve problems on their own.   

Applications that enable customers to make inquiries, request new offers, search for agreements or information and receive important updates on their requests are paramount. Employees or software assistants will be able to track, confirm and update the requests assigned to them without unnecessary complexity and time spent.  

7. Keeping up with changing customer expectations  

Even before COVID-19, the migration towards digital solutions made manufacturers rethink the way they do business. But now, the crisis has severely impacted all companies, rushing them towards a digital approach and making end customers resource mainly to online activities.  

Manufacturers must adapt to the new paradigm and cater to the new business models and lifestyle of the consumers by keeping in mind the end-user and how the pandemic impacted their lives.  

8. Machine intelligence and IoT 

The manufacturing segment is now observing the impact of machine intelligence and mechanical technology - from AI to IoT sensors to robots on the production line.  With their help, companies can analyze information immediately, offering support in anticipation of next business steps and automate manual and repeating workflows and processes.    

9 Dealing with global competition

Customers expect accurate, reliable data and transparency, prompting manufacturers to rethink how they can deliver a better customer experience. The globalization is making it easier for competitors everywhere to enter the market with global delivery, platforms like Amazon and competitive prices.  

Regardless of whether the competitors are using less expensive workforce or are implementing technological advantages, manufacturing companies have a lot of work to do to stay competitive.  

Final thought 

It is safe to say that the industrial manufacturing business is facing great difficulties in the coming period. As manufacturers begin to reshape their business model and adapt to the new paradigm, they should reassess their needs and find the strengths to leverage and remain competitive even in the most uncertain of times. 

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