2017 had its share of ups and downs, challenges and opportunities. But for many manufacturers, it was another banner year. In California, the manufacturing sector continues to drive the economy. Manufacturing now accounts for nearly 11.5 percent of The Golden State’s total output, while employing 7.8 percent of its workforce according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
So what topics were on the tips of everyone’s tongue in 2017? From minimum wage laws to security concerns, everyone had a subject that hit home. Conversations revolved around the skills gap and ways to retrain existing talent and recruit new talent. We also heard a lot about the unique challenges facing women in manufacturing.
They make up a large, untapped resource yet only account for 27 percent of manufacturing employees. And of course, there was no escaping the topic of additive manufacturing and robotics.
So, here are the top 5 topics that gained the most traction with our readers in 2017.
Reducing Labor Costs in Manufacturing
This story posed the question, Is there a way to reduce labor costs in manufacturing without laying off the workforce? We offered and discussed six potential solutions, including:
- Eliminating overscheduling by using predictive scheduling software
- Implementing Lean production techniques to reduce non-value added processes
- Standardizing process and parts to drive economies of scale and automation
Manufacturing Apps for Mobile Devices
With technology now touching every aspect of our lives, it’s no surprise that mobile apps have made their way into the manufacturing realm. In this story, we explored 13 of the most popular apps out there, including:
- Manufacturing 360, which offers immersive digital experiences designed to give you a competitive advantage
- American Manufacturing, delivering the latest industry news and events directly to your iPhone
- 5S-Lean Audit Checklist, designed to give plant managers a 360-degree view of the facilities operations and lean initiatives
And that’s just skimming the surface. See our full list of top manufacturing apps here.
Innovations in Aerospace
The future of aerospace is now, and many small- to medium-sized manufacturers are poised to reap the rewards. We identified six emerging aerospace technologies that will change the face of aerospace, including:
- The zero-fuel aircraft, a concept ripe for use in agriculture, aerial photography, 3D mapping, and more
- Structural health monitoring systems, a technology designed to help determine an aircraft’s status that’s already been adopted by Airbus and Boeing
- Advanced space propulsion technologies, a plasma-based system in development at NASA that will lower fuel consumption thereby enabling longer space missions
The Benefits of Additive Manufacturing
Additive Manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) has been around since the 1980s, but it wasn’t until recently that its benefits were well understood by manufacturers. In this story, we looked at 5 factors contributing to the growth of additive manufacturing, including:
- Affordable cost of entry. Prices that at one time would have made CFO’s cringe are now significantly lower, with quality equipment now selling for as little as $3,500.
- Ease of product revisions. Additive manufacturing allows for creative freedom without the cost and time concerns inherent in traditional manufacturing.
- Energy savings. By using less material and eliminating production steps, additive manufacturing reduces energy usage and can restore end-of-life products using as little as 2 percent of the energy needed to start from scratch.
Get the full story here and see what other benefits additive marketing is bringing to the table.
Overcoming Human Resources Challenges
While California holds the title of the largest manufacturing sector in the United States, that’s not to say we don’t face challenges. In this story, we identified some common problems and offered solutions.
- Difficulty recruiting and re-training skilled talent
- Employee deficiencies in required skills
- Safety concerns
The Year Ahead
So what can we look forward to in 2018? Expect the topics we just covered to continue to challenge us while offering room for growth. In addition, IndustryWeek predicts you’ll also be hearing a lot about these hot-button subjects:
- The Internet of Things (IoT). More B2B businesses will be “getting smart” in 2018, using IoT-enabled equipment to save money and reduce downtime and overall maintenance costs.
- Cobot production. Manufacturers will begin bidding adieu to traditional robots in 2018 and saying hello to the cobots—collaborative robots that are smarter and safer.
- Blockchain manufacturing. It’s not just for bitcoins anymore. Experts predict cryptocurrencies will be making their way into the manufacturing realm as a safer way of building digital relationships.
We’ll stay on top of these trends and more throughout the year. Want to stay in the know? Subscribe to the California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) blog for all things manufacturing.