Reflecting on our Five Technology Predictions last year, we focused on the strategic and technological lessons that we learned a year into the pandemic. People, along with their organizations, undertook significant learning curves to be better prepared for the unexpected, particularly during the transition to remote work operating models.
As we look forward to 2022, there will be a shift in the way we react to unforeseen challenges, especially because uncertainty has become a more familiar and expected characteristic of the market.
For example, to address the disruption caused by COVID-19, 70% of manufacturers accelerated their use of digital strategies to transform business processes to support consistency and alignment up and down the supply chain.
Organizations are now more ready to shift from the survival mindset that was necessary in 2021, back to a growth mindset that acts upon the strategic lessons learned on how to adapt, as well as compete, in an unpredictable business environment. Let’s look deeper at the strategy and technology trends to expect in 2022.
If organizations focused on remote work transformation last year, the year that follows will focus on organizational transformation around data. Now that we have adapted to hybrid or fully remote working capabilities, the next hurdle is to support a global and/or dispersed organization in making better decisions with real-time information. This means that the software that employees use to support their day-to-day work needs to be transformed as well. For example, organizations need to ask themselves: How do we leverage data cross-divisionally, cross-domain, and cross-geographically?
In addition, organizations can no longer use data that is a couple of weeks old when they need to make well-informed decisions that impact strategic direction and execution. The right technologies can support collaborative decision-making using real-time information. For example, simply getting data isn’t good enough, it must be put into context in useful ways such as through the visualization of data. The digital thread and digital twin are also a part of this conversation because the democratization of data and IT is centered around aligning people and products within the environment where work gets done, whether that is in-person, remote, or hybrid.
The world has gotten more complex: systems, organizations, and products.
For example, a standard wheel loader used in construction today performs what seems like repetitive motions to move or load materials like soil, rock, or debris. Surprisingly, there are as many as 4,000 programs that are necessary to run it. With this level of product specificity paired with increasing customer expectations, there is a term called Engineer to Order (ETO) which will be a theme for manufacturers in the year to come. ETO is where a product is engineered and produced after an order has been received and this allows a manufacturer to meet the exact specifications of customers.
This calls for a CAD solution that allows the efficient regeneration of product designs and supports the creation of various design iterations. Incorporating this capability into your CAD software adds another level of intelligence and automation for manufacturers who need to deliver custom products. Having this functionality in your CAD software will become increasingly relevant in 2022, as most organizations continue to figure out how to remain innovative in a market that is rapidly changing. As revived consumer demand will be a tailwind for the manufacturing industry, everyone everywhere should be able to react to change.
When you look at IoT use cases across various organizations, an IoT platform allows users to build applications on top of the platform itself to find the best ways to improve their manufacturing process.
For example, enabling the use of Smart Connected Products (SCP) is part of the strong IoT capability that software vendors can provide to manufacturers. Customers will look to vendors for out-of-the-box solutions that address a specific customer need, such as a PTC’s Digital Performance Management (DPM) solution. This IoT solution is enterprise-ready and scalable across product lines and geographies, which allows users to very quickly leverage the value added by an IoT platform.
Additionally, DPM delivers the right data at the right time to inform your team with timely insights about bottlenecks, root causes, and the improvements that you can make to your processes. As most manufacturers face the common challenge of identifying and mitigating bottlenecks, DPM delivers one view of performance through a universally recognized business metric – hours – that can be understood from frontline workers, to managers, and executives. This is an important part of the digital transformation strategy going forward and enables companies to better link their operations with technology by using the DPM solution to bridge gaps that previously seemed too large to tackle. As DPM unifies information technology (IT) that powers business systems and operational technology (OT) which powers manufacturing, DPM is set to be the flagship example of enterprise ready solutions.
As organizations return to a growth mindset in 2022, eliminating waste and inefficiencies within the manufacturing line plays an integral part. Organizations will be thinking about how to ensure manufacturing sustainability, particularly by adopting lean manufacturing processes that take a systemic approach toward optimizing the production process. This also includes reducing time and reducing total costs of production by focusing on efficiency.
On top of increasing profit margins, lean manufacturing principles will also help organizations achieve circularity. This means more than just ‘recycling’, as the circular economic model makes a supply chain more efficient by reducing waste in a sense that the products that organizations produce today are also the raw materials of tomorrow.
Circularity is an important goal to have within your digital transformation strategy and calls for organizations to assess how reusable or recyclable the parts in their products are. For example, companies like Whirlpool that produce dishwashers will ask themselves: can you take a dishwasher apart to recycle and how do we design it? Circularity is centered around what will become of the product after the user discards it, and it will be a long-term goal for organizations who want to increase their margins for each part of a product they manufacture. This way, product parts enjoy a longer lifecycle and achieves a greener manufacturing supply chain that reduces your company’s carbon footprint.
In 2022, organizations will be increasingly focused on providing offerings that support customers in achieving these goals. For example, in the past, identifying key sources of waste may have previously involved engineers manually analyzing each step of the manufacturing process. However, IoT solutions give manufacturers access to real-world data in order to have a holistic view of the supply chain for informed decisions about identifying sources of waste.
The key takeaway from our tech trend predictions for manufacturers is that digital transformation will be the driver of growth in the year ahead. As the market shifts from the survival mindset that was necessary last year, organizations can build a better, more comprehensive technology stack to support agile practices that allow them to fully grasp opportunities and overcome hurdles, no matter how volatile the market can be.
Learn how industrial companies are getting the most value out of their digital transformation efforts.