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The Latest Technological Changes in Manufacturing

Adam Spence

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Manufacturing makes up an astounding $2.17 trillion of the economy in the U.S. and contrary to popular belief, it is still increasing and is up by 27% from 2009. This is an industry that has gone through many ups-and-downs in the last few years. From job cuts to offshoring, manufacturing has always been involved with international and economic trends. The most current movements have involved technological advancements, along with the effects that these advancements have had on workforce demographics and factories. Read this article from Redline.

Most of the changes made in the manufacturing industries arise from consumer demands. Consumers are always looking for better and faster, unique and personalized, and also newer than the previous quarter or year. For this reason, manufacturers are constantly searching for methods and ways to stay on top of the demands associated with products, along with finding workers that are skilled to create these products.

The latest technological manufacturing advances have assisted with improving the way consumer demands are met. With the latest implementation of CMMS (computerized maintenance management systems), this industry has become a lot more efficient. A CMMS is designed to track system maintenance, breakdowns, and inspections, which makes disruptions to the system much smaller, and in some cases even obsolete. Rather than tracking changes or issues manually on paper, the CMMS can handle everything remotely, which increases productivity. The advantages include fewer maintenance costs, fewer repairs, trend and historical data reports, and far more streamlined workforces.

Impact Of Big Data And The IoT

CMMS technology is also able to remotely connect devices, which allows these devices to “communicate” with each other. The IoT which stands for the Internet of Things connects a business like a factory to the Internet, which enables remote monitoring and automation. Instead of manual checks, the IoT provides a way to connect systems to one another and to monitor the processes of each system.

With this type of connection, facilities are able to aggregate and collect big data, along with extensive amounts of information that concern these systems. This type of information can then be analyzed and measured which increases efficiency and productivity. The IoT helps many manufacturers to work better in the way of enabling them to get their products to consumers a lot faster.

Products Have Become Smarter

The consumers of today require products that are connected, responsive, and intelligent, i.e: “smart”.  Terms such as “wearable technology”, “smart lighting”, and “connected cars” are a few examples associated with such products. Consumers are using this form of technology in order to stay on track with different elements in their lives, from tracking the way they exercise, to what they are eating.

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As products are becoming smarter, the manufacturers have to come up with the abilities to mass-produce this type of technology and to stay on top of the overall technological evolution associated with these products, while they continually improve. This has essentially changed business models linked to manufacturing and the skillset required of workers. Products of today are no longer just assembly-lined created products. They now necessitate a specialized talent so that they can also be mass-produced.

What Has Happened To The Workforce?

These types of technological advancements may be exciting, but they also have a significant effect on the workforce’s involvement in manufacturing. Around 80% of manufacturers have mentioned they have either a serious or moderate shortage of applicants that are qualified for highly skilled and even skilled positions. Over the next 20 years, it has been predicted that around 2 million manufacturing positions will become unfulfilled due to a gap in skills.

For instance, 3-D printing has become a lot cheaper, while less material and time is needed for producing complex designs. These product types do not require assembly lines but rather skilled engineers to manufacture and design shapes that cannot be produced inside a factory. It becomes clear that manufacturing has changed drastically from the previous blue-collar workforce onto a white-collar and highly trained profession.

The manufacturing employees of today are both highly skilled and highly paid, with most earning around 24% more every year when compared to average U.S workers. Technology has made these jobs a lot more lucrative.

Bridging The Gap

Many ways in which to close these gaps in skills have already been proposed. This includes encouraging mathematics (STEM), engineering, technology, and science studies at all school levels, and changing the outdated stigma linked to manufacturing jobs. It also includes training the internal workers in order to prepare these individuals for jobs that are more complex.

How the gap will start to close is at this moment still unknown. It will probably involve various efforts in order to work. What we do know at this stage is that technology has changed this industry drastically compared to 10 to 20 years ago.

Adam studied computer science at Fordham University before finding his groove in tech journalism. After a successful pitch got him published on CNN.com, Adam traveled the world covering tech developments in Japan and elsewhere. He’s now a full-time journalist for The Fledged.

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