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2022 Manufacturing Trends & Technologies: More Data, More Innovation, and a Whole Lot More IoT

Written by Abhi Ghatak, Director - Manufacturing Industry

What does 2022 hold for manufacturing? What lessons have been learned over the pandemic and preceding years that will inform the next set of best practices? What technologies will manufacturers lean on most heavily as they navigate this new normal, and the next new normal, and the one after that?

The biggest trend seems to be an increasingly heavily reliance on IoT (Internet of Things) tools and tactics.

While there are other trends being discussed across the spectrum — addressing labor shortages, improving supply chain practices, revamping ERP systems and processes, enhancing predictive maintenance — it all seems to come back to optimizing manufacturing with IoT.

Take each trend just mentioned and you can easily see how IoT fits in: Improving the supply chain? IoT tools can plug in from start to finish, creating real-time feedback that makes the supply chain more predictable, enhance visibility and can help keep it moving. Predictive maintenance? Almost impossible without IoT. Labor shortages? IoT tools both reduce the need for manual labor (meaning fewer new hires) and can help better ensure employee safety (protecting the people you have). Optimizing ERP? IoT data provides insights to help speed workflows, and optimize production performance enterprise-wide.

Manufacturing Trend #1: IoT

Clearly THE topic for 2022 (and we’ll devote a future article or more to it), IoT is used to connect devices, equipment, and facilities using existing internet infrastructure. Transponders sending data from manufacturing floors and shipping containers, for example, are already in widespread use across the industry.

In fact, according to MPI Group data, nearly a third (31%) of production processes now incorporate IoT devices. Additionally, 34% of manufacturers have plans to incorporate IoT technology into their processes, while 32% plan to embed IoT technology into their products.

On one hand, it’s all about the data. The analytics provided via IoT devices and platforms empowers a manufacturing company to have near-total insight on every step in the supply chain, every workflow, and every resource.

This data enables a company to quickly pivot based on changes within and beyond its ecosystem, to more quickly see what’s needed and where, and more consistently meet the needs of vendors, partners, and customers.

On another hand, IoT devices and platforms are essential in navigating the New Normal. Manufacturers can now more safely monitor equipment performance and identify potential issues from a distance, entirely hands-off. IoT data empowers technicians to gain a more complete understanding of any problem at hand and come up with potential solutions before visiting a shop floor or job site.

For these reasons and so many more, IoT will easily be the leading trend in manufacturing in 2022, and likely stay that way for years to come.

Manufacturing Trend #2: Predictive Maintenance

In most cases, this trend is tied to trend #1 as it’s IoT devices that typically provide the data that enables predictive maintenance. Predictive maintenance is exactly what it sounds like: a means of solving equipment, facility, and platform problems before they occur.

For years, major manufacturers have been in either reactive or “calendar” mode when it comes to maintaining machinery and other resources. Reactive = don’t worry about or spend on maintenance: just fix stuff when it breaks. Calendar = maintain equipment based on a set schedule, regardless of whether or not it’s actually needed.

But in recent years, each of these modes has been shown to deliver more detriments (and costs) than benefits (and value).

In addition to reactive maintenance creating headaches at least and entire shutdowns at worst, it’s also a terrible way to ensure and extend the working life of machinery.

And while scheduled maintenance can help ensure a long, healthy working life for equipment, it comes with a cost that, in many cases, can be avoided. For example, machine X is due for maintenance on date Y; a technician visits on date Y and finds that machine X is running perfectly — yes, you get peace of mind, but also waste both time and money.

One way ArganoArbela is helping clients keep pace with this trend is through our Bill of Materials (BOM) capabilities, which provides customer service and field service team members full visibility of customer purchased products for ease of trouble shooting, servicing, and product software updates. It provides visibility and history of a product as it evolves from it’s as-built configuration to it’s as-serviced configuration. It also captures the Audit History to provide traceability on updates made to any product, empowering staff with a full view of their customers purchased products and enabling proactive maintenance.

In the past few years, manufacturing companies using predictive maintenance technologies and methodologies have had a leg-up on competitors as they were able to spot internal problems before they occurred, and were thereby better equipped to respond to external problems (e.g., Covid turning the supply chain upside down).

In 2022, it’ll be time for all companies to roll-out and extend predictive maintenance practices across the enterprise.

Manufacturing Trend #3: Innovating in ERP

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) planning systems are foundational in manufacturing as they help streamline processes, provide accurate, real-time data on business costs and revenue, and help reduce manual labor and overall spend. That won’t change in 2022. What will change is how manufacturing companies extend, customize, and otherwise innovate with ERP.

Using pre-packaged extensions (such as our own Arbela Data Insights and One Step Consolidation, among others) or creating custom ones using tools like Microsoft Power Platform, manufacturing companies are no longer settling for “off the shelf” ERP and are instead creating systems that help them do more for less.

In 2022, we expect manufacturing companies to take this to a new level, in many cases no longer using ERP as a standalone solution but instead utilizing it in a modular fashion. For example, for Microsoft customers, the features and functions of “ERP” can be layered into a stack that also includes CRM (customer relationship management) features and functions, HR solutions (recruiting, benefits management, and more), collects and integrates third-party data, captures all communications, etc.

The result will be a solution that has all critical data in the same place, that empowers users of every level, and that improves workflows and response times while reducing overall costs.

Other Manufacturing Trends in 2022

While we narrowed the field to these three, we know that what constitutes a “top trend” is often in the eye of the beholder. We’re seeing a lot of talk about workforce shortages, more companies seeking to improve mobility, more focus on directly connecting consumers to manufacturers, and more.

In our humble opinion, however, it’s IoT that’ll lead the way, and help address the trends detailed above and much more. Stay tuned as we continue to explore manufacturing in 2022, and see what happens when a trend becomes a best practice.

Contact us today to learn more about our Manufacturing Solutions.