Five Technology Trends for the Manufacturing Industry in 2018

2018 is here. I don’t know about you, but I feel like it was just yesterday we were exiting the 90’s. Instead, two years from now we will be in 2020 entering a new decade. Time flies, right?

Along with time, technology keeps advancing. It seems like it takes leaps instead of steps and just yesterday I was getting on the Internet for the first time. Now, we are looking at autonomous cars and robots in the aisles of Wal-Mart. Even though these won’t impact your business (yet), 2018 will see it’s fair share of new technologies ramping up in the workspace and it’s important for everyone to be aware of those trends. Why? Because by knowing what’s coming next, you can anticipate, budget for and leverage the right technologies that will keep you ahead of the competition.

From Cloud Technology to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Business Intelligence (BI), here are five trends that your business should pay attention to in 2018.

1. Supply Chain Optimization

One of the most impacting trends for the manufacturing industry is the technology surrounding supply chain optimization. The supply chain management (SCM) market was expected to generate $13 billion in revenue in 2017. The modern supply chain is composed of an ever-extending network of businesses and connections and with them, came a huge amount of data.

Not only did that data need to be managed, but when simplified, it allowed CEO and supply-chain managers to create patterns and easily identify areas of optimization. The development of new technologies enabled manufacturers to run leaner and more efficient business units. According to Chad Eschinger, managing Vice President at Gartner, “Digitalization is increasing demand for agility and forcing new business models, which is boosting spending in the SCM market.”

By 2021, the SCM market will have generated another $6 billion in revenue and put (at least) as much back in the pockets of their customers. This is one trend you should definitely look at starting or improving in 2018.

2. Intelligent Devices (IoT)

You’ve seen them appear in your house with Google Home and Alexa, on your wrist with the Apple Watch and Fitbit; smart objects will also enter your office sooner than you think. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a trend that has been going on for years now and is only getting stronger every year. It allows us to connect objects to internet and display their usage (for example) in real-time on a dashboard. In the manufacturing industry, you can quickly imagine how this type of data applied to every machine could be valuable to a manager.

In this infographic from i-scoop, you notice some of the many applicable ways to utilize IoT:  Monitoring production flows in real-time, managing equipment remotely, reduce machine down-time, aggregating customer data.


In many ways, this reminds me of the impacts an ERP software can have on your business. After all, the role of an ERP is to collect data from every single entry point in your business and display it on a dashboard where you can build your own Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to optimize your business. Regardless, the manufacturing industry spent $178 billion in 2017 into the IoT market and there will be 21 billion connected objects by 2020, so this trend isn’t going away. If you are not ready to look into smart machines yet, you could consider a solution that makes your equipment smart by extracting, processing, and displaying the data back to you.

3. Business Intelligence (BI)

BI is constantly changing, but what hasn’t changed is the heavy dependence on the business process and understanding what elements have the most impact on business performance. By understanding the driving factors of business performance, companies can make better decisions.

In the Big Data world we live in today, BI is ever more important. Remember, every second, over 68,000 searches are performed on Google alone, over 78,000 videos are viewed on Youtube and over 2 million emails are sent. This is the type of data we are generating and able to collect and it goes far beyond personal life. If you could measure the average time to complete a delivery, or to pack an order after it has been processed, would you track it? If you were able to measure how long it takes to perform a task on paper vs on a computer, would you track how much money you could save a year by digitizing your business? You probably would. And you would be right because it would allow you to make smarter decisions, quicker, and that would benefit your business.

In 2018, start looking into Business Intelligence services and solutions that allow you to measure and track your business performance across the board.

4. The Rise of NLP

Natural Language Processing is another branch of Artificial Intelligence, recognizing patterns and working to improve the language of programs by analyzing a body of data and finding relevant connections. In 2018, NLP is expected to become an empowering tool to encourage audiences to ask more questions, benchmark companies against their competition, and ensure your products comply to the current legislation.

Tech Emergence detailed five ways NLP can be beneficial for businesses:

  • Customer service: “How can I keep my customers happy?”
  • Reputation monitoring: “What are people saying about me?”
  • Ad placement: “Who is interested in my product?”
  • Market intelligence: “What’s happening with my competitors?”
  • Regulatory compliance: “Is my product a liability?”

5. Lean Manufacturing

Since the 1990’s, lean manufacturing has been focused on simplifying and standardizing business processes, eliminating waste, and keeping the organization in continuous movement. So, why is Lean Manufacturing still a trend to watch in 2018? Simply because it is a philosophy that is more than ever relevant today with the rise of new technologies.

According to Ultra Consultants, companies who have successfully implemented a lean structure have seen the following results:

  • 50% increase in productivity
  • 80% reduction in work in process
  • 75% reduction in work space required
  • 85% improvement in quality
  • 95% reduction in lead-time
  • 95% improvement in on-time delivery

I think we can agree that those are not bad results. In fact, they are pretty impressive.

So, as we move along with more technology, data, and artificial intelligence, remember, that no matter how powerful those new tools are; they are just that: tools. The real power comes from the people behind them and how companies seize and leverage those opportunities to eliminate waste, improve their organizations, and create growth.