Current Issues

Regular Industry Development Updates, Opinions and Talking Points relating to Manufacturing, the Supply Chain and Logistics.

Manufacturing Sector Set for Significant Change in 2018

13-Dec-2017
Manufacturing Sector Set for Significant Change in 2018
Manufacturing, along with virtually all other industries, is going through a significant period of change. Driven by rapid technological development, manufacturers are having to work smarter, operate more efficiently and be prepared to innovate.

Over the next 12 months, these factors will be supplemented by a combination of political and economic upheaval that is likely to have far-reaching ramifications, such as fluctuating currency rates and slowing down Britain’s economy.

In order to be able to respond to these changes and remain competitive, embracing innovative technologies is now more important than ever. For manufacturers specifically, relying on outdated software when competitors are adopting Internet of Things (IoT) and embracing smart technologies, will hold them back. Procrastination will make it significantly harder for a manufacturer to thrive and grow in today’s fast-paced business environment.

As an enabler of growth, technology will play a key role in empowering businesses to innovate and embrace the opportunities that will present themselves in 2018.

But where exactly are these opportunities likely to come from? Here, we identify the top trends that we believe will be central to success in the upcoming year.

The need for flexibility
A key factor for manufacturing growth in 2018 and beyond will be whether businesses are flexible enough to be able to deal with the amount of predictable and unpredictable change coming their way.

Chief among these changes are Brexit and incoming Global Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). While many organisations are concerned about the impact they will have on industry, they are both predictable to some extent so can be planned for.

Flexible businesses will then be able to ride out the potential issues that such political or legislative changes may cause, such as having to adapt internal processes or employ personnel with different areas of expertise.

The even greater challenge comes from responding to unpredictable changes that can appear at any moment. By taking the view that change is constant, well-prepared manufacturers will be able to take advantage of the opportunities, mitigate the threats and control the impact of something as big as Brexit or GDPR.

One of the biggest barriers to flexibility for many manufacturers is having to rely on an outdated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Too many businesses are still using legacy software, which can hold them back in several ways, such as making it harder to scale production up or down.

They will also miss out on the valuable competitive advantages that a strong ERP solution can provide. For example, integrated ERP systems enable manufacturers to rapidly respond to last-minute order changes and improve resource management to control spending and reduce waste.

Having a flexible IT solution will be the engine of growth for forward-thinking businesses.

Industry 4.0 comes of age
The growth of ‘Industry 4.0’ has been a widely discussed topic in 2017 and its steep upward trajectory is certainly going to continue. For example, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) predicts that more than 1.7 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories worldwide by 2020, representing an annual growth rate of 14 percent.

Essentially, Industry 4.0 is about combining artificial intelligence and data science to realise the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), but just having access to large pools of information is no longer enough. The important thing that manufacturers need to take advantage of over the coming year is using that data to gain insight, inform decisions, and drive better business outcomes.

As more and more ‘smart’ devices are integrated into organisations in 2018, Industry 4.0 will continue to dominate the manufacturing industry, offering valuable benefits including predictive maintenance of machinery and increased levels of automation to help manufacturers optimise their operations. One example of this is for inventory control of spares and raw materials. Sensors are being used to identify stock levels and, based on historical information, automate the replenishment of these items. This innovation decreases production down time and ensures an optimised delivery schedule.

It’s about being able to build upon a loop of intelligence that feeds into a cycle of continuous improvement. In layman’s terms, this involves gathering as much data as possible, turning this data into insight and finally into intelligence which can be used to improve business processes.

This is the mindset manufacturers should adopt when it comes to ERP. However, making the move towards a smarter ERP system can require a cultural shift for manufacturers as well as financial investment.

ERP systems are already collecting more business data than ever before, but making sense of this data and taking action on it will be the key differentiator in the year ahead.

Customer experience is king
With the increasing amount of data being created by Industry 4.0 comes the opportunity to significantly enhance the customer experience.

This is an area that, thanks to increasingly competitive business landscapes, is now more important than ever. Success in 2018 will boil down to how well companies can differentiate themselves from the rest and focusing on the customer journey will be a key aspect.

Customers today expect the same service in their work life as they get in their personal life, which means ‘business to business’ companies need to start behaving more like ‘business to consumer’ ones and treat the customer experience as sacred. For example, people are used to features such as same-day delivery and one-click ordering in their personal lives, which is making them more demanding in their professional capacities.

For manufacturers dealing with a complex supply chain, a robust and modern ERP system is now widely recognised as playing a crucial role in improving the customer experience. IDC research reports that 85% of manufacturers with more than 5,000 employees identify ERP as being a vital platform to delivering positive customer experiences.

A flexible, fully-integrated ERP system that streamlines operational processes and connects back-office with front-office functions throughout the lifetime of an asset or product enables manufacturers to offer a much higher level of service. A level of service that they are able to charge more for and will set them well apart from their competitors.

AI-driven future
Linked to improving the customer experience is the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is set to have a profound impact on ERP systems in 2018 in several diverse ways.

For example, AI-driven ERP is being used to create dynamic workflows that learn the various ways in which an organisation and its employees interact with the software, before suggesting different optimisations for individual users.

In terms of improving customer service and support, AI is for example allowing business to provide always-on customer service that isn’t constrained by time zones or holidays. It is also quickly scalable and enables an unparalleled level of personalisation throughout the customer journey.

Furthermore, AI in the form of predictive analytics can be used to produce deeper insights for specific business outcomes and make more sense of the mountains of data manufacturers are now collecting and storing.

More use cases will become apparent as the technology continues to develop, but what’s already clear is that the potential of AI when it comes to ERP is significant.

With political and economic upheaval on the horizon, businesses are facing an unclear future. There are turbulent times ahead, but those organisations that concentrate on making themselves smart and agile will be the ones that are best positioned to take advantage of growth opportunities in 2018.

For manufacturers, this process starts by ensuring that internal software systems are fully supported with the latest updates, thereby enabling them to react to change and view the likes of Brexit and GDPR as opportunities rather than threats.

Guidance for Employers on the General Data Protection Regulation coming into force in May
2 days ago
Four Predictions for Supply Chain Operations to Kick Off 2018
4 days ago
Supply chain visibility 2018: You can’t hit what you can’t see..
4 days ago
Analysts Support a Single Model for Sales and Operations Planning
4 days ago
Industry 4.0 – Seize the Moment (in small steps)
5 days ago
Kuebix Makes 2018 Transportation Predictions That Will Shake-Up the Supply Chain
1 week ago
Looking Ahead at CRM Trends for 2018
1 week ago
Driver Shortage The Biggest Challenge Facing The Road Transport Sector In 2018 Says Paragon Survey
1 week ago
A View on Blockchain for Business—Transformational Blockbuster for 2018, or ‘Slow Burn’?
1 week ago
The State of Food & Beverage Labeling
1 week ago
2028: What Work Will Look Like a Decade from Now
1 week ago
UK manufacturing sees continued growth
1 week ago
Logistics in 2018 will be an anxiety-inducing war of tech vs. economics, and that’s great
1 week ago
GateHouse Telecom Sees ‘Connectivity’ Dominating Satellite Communications in 2018
1 week ago
Home Depot’s rumoured XPO Logistics take-over ‘bad news for UK brands’ warns ParcelHero
2 weeks ago
Why inkjet is the printing technology of the future
2 weeks ago
Is it ALL about the last mile?
1 month ago
Open your presents early urges ParcelHero! Faulty Black Friday purchases must be returned by Christmas Eve
1 month ago
Auto Manufacturers: Be Ready for Recalls
1 month ago
Three Business Rules to Forget in the Digital Era
1 month ago
British factories are about to increase investment at the strongest rate in four years
1 month ago
AI – Unlocking the Secrets of the Global Supply Chain
1 month ago
The Internet of Things Has Value for Prepared Manufacturers
1 month ago
Beyond the Hype—Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing
1 month ago
Companies have until May to ensure that they are compliant with cyber security before GDPR becomes legislation
1 month ago
Supply chain 2018 – innovation hits warp speed
1 month ago
61% of organisations using forklift truck rental consider the market out of sync with today’s 24x7 requirement
1 month ago
How new approaches can bring ‘Smooth Talking’ to enterprise communications without breaking the budget
1 month ago
Logistics ECM – Advancing Documentation Distribution
1 month ago
How to keep your warehouse in sync with sales promotions
1 month ago
Transparency a Must in Food and Beverage Manufacturing
1 month ago
Getting to grips with the human aspects of automated eFulfilment
1 month ago
Online comes out on top for Black Friday 2017
1 month ago
Sound Technology Could be the Answer for Pharmaceutical Companies Weathering the Brexit Regulatory Storm
1 month ago
Why I believe monozukuri is not only the art of manufacturing, but also an art for society
1 month ago
Government funding in technology to help UK productivity
1 month ago
AEB releases new Brexit report on global trade risks, challenges, investments, and opportunities
1 month ago
Digitisation is Key to Averting the Global Food Crisis
1 month ago
10 ways #Budget2017 is good news for business owners
1 month ago
The UK Budget November 2017 – at a glance
1 month ago
Last mile delivery in the age of the online shopper
1 month ago
Retailers Maximise Christmas Profits With Eooro Online Customer Reviews
1 month ago
The budget delivers a brighter future for home deliveries; but fuels Brexit worries
1 month ago
How Manufacturers Can Avoid Black Friday Misery
1 month ago
High-Volume Manufacturing: The Moment of Truth
1 month ago
Capacity and price indices remain at extreme levels
1 month ago
Optimize Your Global Supply Chain By Integrating Your Labeling With SAP®
1 month ago
Eooro.com Launches To Help Businesses Get More Online Customer Reviews
2 months ago
60% of UK companies face a skills gap within their IT departments and cannot fill positions quickly enough
2 months ago