As inflationary pressures, workforce constraints, and unsteady supply chains plague the manufacturing industry, digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, are becoming crucial levers for growth (and survival).

Today, we’re examining the top IT trends in manufacturing so you can determine which trends should be top priority for your own firm.

Why Stay Updated With Current IT Trends in Manufacturing?​

Trends spark ideas, keeping organizations ahead of the competition (think robots in 3D printing processes or AI-optimizing paint recipes). Trends also reveal efficiency goldmines (i.e., factory floor robots automating repetitive tasks and predictive maintenance saving downtime).

More specifically, the IT trends discussed in this post can help manufacturers avoid costly surprises. Modern enterprise software is crucial for agility, especially when new regulations mandate sustainable materials or global data privacy laws reshape security best practices.

Top IT Trends in the Manufacturing Industry

The manufacturing industry is undergoing a revolution fueled by AI-powered optimization and the rise of the “connected factory.” Here are the tech trends reshaping the landscape and how to harness their power to build a factory that thrives:

1. Enhancing Security

Cyberattacks in the manufacturing industry can directly disrupt production, causing losses and thinning profit margins.

Today, manufacturers are locking down their systems with layered security that restricts access and limits damage in case of a breach. Examples of layered security include:

  • Smart access control tools: These tools restrict access to systems and data based on user roles and permissions.
  • Industrial security monitoring: This involves continuous surveillance of networks and machines to detect suspicious activity.
  • Zero Trust architecture: This approach assumes no one inside or outside the network is inherently trustworthy and requires continuous verification of access and privileges.

Manufacturing organizations are also training and reskilling their workforce to spot and report threats. This is proving helpful in mitigating the impact of social engineering attacks and phishing scams.

Software Selection & Process Improvement Case Study

In helping the client get its project back on track, one of our primary focus areas was decreasing their customization needs by improving their processes to align with the system's best practices.

2. Leveraging Wearables and Edge Tech​

When planning upgrades, manufacturing companies should go beyond personal computers. Industrial workers need tools to match their on-the-go reality.

As such, manufacturers are investing in wearables, like smart glasses that enable hands-free access to shop floor data, repair instructions, and more.

Wearables are a type of edge technology, meaning they process sensor data, smart machine data, and data from other devices at the “edge” of a computing network.

By blurring the lines between worker and data, edge technology is paving the way for a smarter, more agile manufacturing future.

3. Moving to the Cloud

This move makes the most sense for manufacturers that want to boost scalability and reduce costs. Increased interoperability is also a major selling point.

In terms of interoperability, manufacturers are using the cloud to connect factories, ERP systems, AI tools, and even smart products.

In addition, manufacturers are increasingly using the cloud for general business applications, like customer relationship management, accounting software, and supply chain collaboration platforms.

4. Deploying Digital Twins​

Manufacturing organizations are using digital twins to test prototypes virtually, reducing the need for physical testing and accelerating product development.

Digital twins provide valuable insights that enable businesses to optimize production processes, perform remote maintenance, and more.

Expert Tip: Before leaping into this trend, be sure to account for the data requirements and computational resources needed to create and maintain accurate digital replicas.

5. Focusing on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)​

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a web of smart machines, sensors, and data streams. Manufacturers are using this technology to access real-time data to streamline production and optimize resource allocation.

One use case is using sensors to monitor machine health and predict maintenance needs.

Another use case is using sensors and data automation to collect environmental data to comply with regulations and optimize energy consumption.

Ultimately, IIoT is helping manufacturers optimize data collection and cut costs. This aligns with the industry’s priorities of addressing labor shortages and meeting compliance requirements.

6. Implementing AI-Enabled ERP Software

ERP software with AI capabilities is helping manufacturers predict market fluctuations, optimize production schedules, automate repetitive tasks, and more.

In addition, manufacturing organizations are leveraging generative AI to augment financial forecasting, enhance customer service with intelligent chatbots, and generate digestible summaries of ERP data. 

In the future, we expect AI in ERP software to become even more sophisticated in the manufacturing realm. For instance, automated recommendations will empower self-learning supply chains that automatically adjust according to predictive and prescriptive findings.

(Learn about the top ERP systems for manufacturing.)

What’s Next for Your Manufacturing Firm?​

The latest IT trends in manufacturing are helping unlock increased efficiency, improved agility, and greater resilience.

So, what’s next for your firm? Consider the following questions:

  • Which trends offer the most significant potential benefit for your specific business challenges and goals?
  • What resources and investments are required to implement these trends successfully?
  • How can you upskill your workforce to adapt to new technologies and workflows?
  • Which ERP providers offer generative AI capabilities?

By taking a proactive approach and carefully evaluating your options, you can leverage the power of modern IT to ensure your business thrives in the years to come.

Schedule an ERP consultation with our team today, and let’s turn your vision into reality.

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