The biggest surprise of 2022 was the large-scale uptake of digital technologies by manufacturers, many of which had previously been reluctant to change their traditional time-honed production methods.
Today, the formerly rare choice to use machine learning for factory optimization is becoming mainstream, as early adopters continue to realize phenomenal gains in productivity.
As 2030 approaches, industrial companies are undergoing a similar realization around sustainability, recognizing that they have to finally start making progress toward the decarbonization goals they set out several years ago. 2023 will be a year when many industrial organizations will look closely at their emissions and take tangible steps to reduce them.
Digital solutions that help teams monitor CO2 emissions, as well as solutions that help factories minimize resource consumption and produce more output with the same amount of energy, will become highly prioritized in this new environment. As sustainability comes to the forefront of the conversation, companies that lag behind in their environmental accomplishments will begin to see more negative consequences.
Other developments outside the manufacturing world will also have an impact on digital technology adoption. In the U.S., we expect the infrastructure sectors such as steel and cement to see more activity as last year’s Infrastructure Bill is tapped into. Within these sectors, there will also be increasing interest in tech-driven decarbonization solutions, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Furthermore, we expect the inflationary environment to continue through 2023 and potentially until early 2024, meaning that cost-cutting will become extremely important. Companies will look for new ways to improve their efficiency in order to maintain profitability.
In addition, labor shortages will continue. In fact, we see two trends combining to form the perfect storm. First: unemployment rates are very low, and there are more open positions than ever (in most sectors). The Fed has been trying to address this through interest rate hikes. Second: the industrial sector is threatened by labor shortages, both due to the aging workforce and the fact that there are few entrants in the industrial labor market.
Both of these together are significantly straining the staffing of the industrial sector, at a time when there is more discussion around bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. — both in semiconductors and other sectors.
The labor shortage challenge means manufacturers will be on the lookout for creative methods to spur productivity and up-skill their existing employees. Technology that enables quick learning and minimizes on-the-job training, such as software with the capacity to build digital twins, will be an increasingly popular solution as companies seek to make the most of the less than ideal hiring situation.
Automation will also be considered by many as a tempting option to fill in the gaps left by missing factory employees. However, we’ll also see the growth of digital solutions that, rather than eliminating human team members, aim to make their jobs easier through the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning, which can derive insights from data too complex to be noticed by the human eye.
2023 will likely not be a year free from challenges for the manufacturing industry. However, it will also be a year when companies reap the benefits of previous investments. Many companies have spent the last few years investing in building out their data storage and sensor capabilities, with the goal of making their production facilities more connected and “smarter.”
This coming year we will see them investing more in technologies that allow them to generate ROI from these data harmonization efforts. We can look forward to seeing more innovation embraced as the manufacturing industry continues its journey toward adapting to digital technology and Industry 4.0.