11 Must-Know Manufacturing Trends for 2021

Last Updated On Manufacturing Trends PDF
Trends für 2021 in der Fertigungsindustrie

2020 was a whirlwind. But with all its twists and turns came valuable lessons that shaped the manufacturing trends  that will make 2021 a success.

In the new year, manufacturers and food processors are on the rebound from the lasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year companies had to focus on surviving the disruption. Now, as operations scale back to pre-pandemic levels, the manufacturing industry is getting back on track and developing new strategies for growth and connecting with workers in new ways. 

As a result, the digital transformation and enablement of frontline workforces will be more important than ever.

Manufacturing trends like employee health and safety, smarter manufacturing technology, and digital connectivity will dominate 2021. 

Download our white paper to learn more about these and other trends in the manufacturing industry for 2021.

Want a peek inside the report? Here are a few of the latest trends in the manufacturing industry that will reshape the next year.

1. Employee Health and Safety Remains Imperative

From the factory floor to the board room, employee health and safety became the center of every conversation in 2020. And that trend is not expected to change in 2021.

In fact, it will continue to accelerate as global regulations continue to evolve, and manufacturers work to build safer environments for all employees.

Similar to previous years, the manufacturing industry ranks third for on-the-job incidents, with an average of 400,000 non-fatal injuries a year. And food processing has an even higher total recordable injury rate.

Businesses will lean on smart equipment and real-time communication technology to ensure employees are as safe as possible.

2. Manufacturing Technology Gets Smarter

AI, robots, 3D printing, and the like are all the latest manufacturing trends in manufacturing technology – and have been for some time.

2021 is the year manufacturing technology gets even smarter.

Robots on the factory floor are growing at warp speed thanks to their declining cost and increasing capabilities. According to the International Federation of Robotics, there are a record 2.7 million industrial robots operating in factories worldwide.

Also, spending on digital twin technology is expected to grow by 17% in 2021. With digital twins, manufacturers can digitally replicate new products before the production process begins – which ultimately decreases overhead costs, waste, and quality issues.

2021 will also be the year that 5G technology will finally take off. It’s estimated that 25% of the global population will have 5G coverage by 2030. And manufacturers could generate from $400 billion to $650 billion of GDP impact by the end of the decade – all from 5G.

3. Digital Connectivity To All The Things

In 2020, the manufacturing and food processing industries were severely impacted by the global pandemic. From closed facilities to rigid communication channels, it was difficult for some to remain flexible. As a result, 94% of Fortune 1000 companies experienced disruptions in their supply chain.

In 2021, digital connectivity will be one of the dominating trends in manufacturing and food processing. Businesses will begin to heavily rely on the internet of things to digitize and connect as many aspects of the production process as possible to stay ahead of further disruptions. 

They’ll do so by adopting tools that connect:

  • Operations
  • Inventory
  • Employees
  • Equipment
  • Customers

The internet of things is rapidly growing. It’s estimated that by 2025, over 75 billion manufacturing devices will be connected and communicating with each other.

4. Going Green in Manufacturing

Today, the manufacturing industry represents 54% of the world’s energy consumption and 20% of global emissions. So, it’s no surprise that there is a growing need for manufacturing and food processing companies to go green.

As a result, circular manufacturing is catching on quick given its benefits, such as:

  • Recovering and repurposing materials and resources
  • Switching to renewable energy to power factories
  • Tracking every step in the manufacturing process to lessen waste

And, sub-sectors, like building materials manufacturers, are seeing a more significant push towards sustainability.

In a recent US Green Building Council survey, half of the respondents believed more than 60% of the construction projects would be green by 2021. Given the rapidly growing demand, the global green building materials market will continue to expand in 2021 and is expected to reach $425 billion by 2027.

5. Centralize Communications

During the pandemic, workforces went in different directions. Many administrative teams worked remotely. Many frontline workers came into work but had to maintain distance from colleagues. In person meetings? What’s that?

So it comes as no surprise that 60% of companies are motivated to adopt digital tools to centralize communication. 

In order to increase, or simply maintain, productivity, companies need to find a new way to connect everyone, especially in the food processing and manufacturing industries and their time sensitive operations. Mobile productivity tools will create a centralized data and communication hub so companies can connect easily and safely with everyone wherever they are.

6. Predictive Maintenance Will Be the Darling of Industry 4.0 

If there’s one area that has plagued manufacturing operations it’s equipment failures. They’re costly and create enormous safety hazards.

Companies can spend up to $260,000 for every hour machines are down. 

Now, with the rise of smart machines, internal sensors can self inspect and alert workers when maintenance is needed, catching mechanical failures before they happen. This extends the life of factory equipment, creates a safer work environment, and saves money.

With its real-time alert and response capabilities, predictive maintenance will continue to transform operations and be a priority for the manufacturing industry in 2021.

7. A More Resilient Supply Chain Network

In 2020, many manufacturers had to halt operations simply because they were not able to procure the materials they needed to operate. Worldwide, supply chains were overburdened and broken, leaving companies without the materials to operate.

As production picks up steam, companies are focused on building more resilient supply chains to avoid similar crisis scenarios in the future.

They’ll do this in several ways, such as:

  • Expand supplier list, moving from single sourcing to multisourcing
  • Digitally monitor supply chains with AI that can alert companies of potential disruptions
  • Find suppliers closer to home or nearshoring supply chains
  • Use additive manufacturing (3D printing) to manufacture supplies in house

Like other areas of manufacturing, having access to emerging technology and digital networks will strengthen supply chains.

8. Lean Operations Management for Business Agility 

As 2021 gets underway, there is going to be a bigger push for a leaner manufacturing industry. On top of the sustainability reasons, streamlining workflows, reducing waste, and improving processes lead to a more financially stable operation. Manufacturers who adopt lean methodology see a huge reduction in operating expenditures.

With a well-connected workforce, no extra inventory, and less waste all around, a company becomes more agile and able to pivot to new business models when faced with a crisis like the 2020 pandemic. It’s going to be a top priority as companies recover and find their footing in this new normal.

9. 3D Printing Will Have its Day

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing as it’s known in the consumer world, has been around for a while. But the technology has come way down in price making it easier, and cheaper, than ever for companies to create molds, prototypes, and even manufacture final parts in-house.

The ability to take a two-dimensional image and, within hours, have a three-dimensional model allows companies to troubleshoot and resolve issues on a smaller scale before investing in a full-size production.

10. 5G Growth Will Resume in the Manufacturing Industry

2020 was all about surviving. Now, as the world emerges from the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, they can start to refocus their strategy on recovery and growth. After a stop and start year, companies will once resume their interest in 5G cellular technology to increase the speed of their operations. 

In fact, 56% of manufacturing companies plan to test 5G sometime in 2021. 

The future of manufacturing will rely on high-speed connectivity to power their Industry 4.0 operations. 

5G technology can facilitate faster:

  • AI integration
  • Real-time communication for a large, dispersed workforce
  • Data sharing
  • IoT connectivity

In 2021, 5G will finally gain a foothold in manufacturing and food processing. As the post-pandemic workforce remains more dispersed than before, 5G will enable real-time connectivity for an entire organization.  The speed and efficiency of information moving through a factory will deliver greater productivity and create a safer work environment. 

11. Frontline Employee Tech Remains A Must-Have

In 2021, manufacturing and food processing companies will digitally enable frontline employees for two reasons.

First, manufacturers need to establish a digitally connected network between employees and Industry 4.0 technologies. In factories of the future, employees will need to communicate digitally with one another and the machines they’re managing.

Also, employee technology is a critical tool in the digital transformation process.

90% of manufacturing executives recognize the importance of employee tech, but only 36% believe they’re meeting these obligations.

Digital transformation in the manufacturing space is not slowing down. It will only accelerate.

So, now is the time for manufacturing and food processing companies to shift away from traditional communication methods and enable their staff with mobile-friendly tools.

Mobile employee technology, like Beekeeper, supports the manufacturing and food processing industries through this 4-step process of digital transformation:

  1. Reach and Connect: Providing better communication to improve operations and maintain employee health and safety. When workers can effectively communicate information in real-time to keep pace with the new speed of manufacturing, it saves time and money.
  2. Digitize: Creating digital versions of essential materials that are easily accessible no matter where you are is good business. Digitizing SOPs, shift schedules, and training documents will keep employees safe, informed, and engaged.
  3. Automate: Streamlining redundant processes nets productivity wins. For example, if your HR team is getting repetitive questions, using chatbots will help them get time back in their day and get information to employees faster.
  4. Optimize: Using integrated workflows increases efficiency. Data silos are broken down, and there is a unified flow of information between systems, machines, and humans.

The next wave of digital transformation is here. Now’s the time to capitalize on these manufacturing trends and adopt tools that support frontline employees through this next technological evolution. 

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