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Shoshana Burgett

Innovation

Manufacturing Trends to Watch in 2017

From onshoring to brick-and-mortar/online collaboration, expect some surprises

Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - 12:02

D

uring the past year, I have interviewed many customers across a variety of manufacturing industries to learn more about their industry concerns, the design and manufacturing challenges they face, and the technologies that excite them. Here are some manufacturing and business trends to follow over the next 12–18 months.

http://blog.xrite.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/onshoring.png
Image courtesy of just-style.com.

Onshoring

Increased labor, transportation, and energy costs, coupled with stricter regulations and environmental concerns, have lead many manufacturers to rethink offshore manufacturing strategies. Although we are likely to see new government and trade policies that encourage local manufacturing, onshoring has been a growing trend for the last three to four years. This is likely to accelerate as manufacturers adopt digital technologies that allow products to be designed once and produced locally.

The combination of standard operating procedures and integrated manufacturing systems to analyze performance and quality control will enable the adoption of local-to-local manufacturing across a range of consumer goods industries.

Transparency in the supply chain

Brands will continue to work toward a higher level of transparency in their supply chains, driven by the continuous pressure to reduce costs and innovate. Transparency is also a trend valued by many consumers, especially millennials. These consumers want to know where something is manufactured, what materials are used, and how long it takes.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP), management information systems (MIS), and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems are all evolving to provide more transparency and visibility into the supply chain process. Systems will be more connected, bringing supply chain data upstream where it can be analyzed. As a result, the product design-to-manufacturing process will become highly digitized. Brands that review hundreds or thousands of samples daily will be able to analyze them digitally, speeding up entire processes and making more informed decisions when issues arise.

Custom manufacturing

This year, we will see more custom manufacturing in textile and fashion. Short-run custom manufacturing began with the photo market and now extends to unique gift offerings. Advances in digital printing and 3D printing are creating new opportunities for short-run and custom-run printing. It will enable large and small brands to create unique “short-run fashion,” which creates new opportunities for the apparel industry as well as the commercial printing industry.

http://blog.xrite.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/1440.jpeg
Image courtesy of wired.co.uk.

Changing face of brick and mortar shopping

The Amazon Go announcement drastically rethinks the way people shop for groceries. It combines online and brick-and-mortar shopping using innovative technology to create a new shopping experience. More important, Amazon is recognizing that the customer journey is both physical and digital. Rumors of 20 to 2,000 stores by 2018 have been surfacing.

In order to own the point-of-purchase for consumers, Amazon will need to partner with brands to expand this concept. Imagine a BestBuy partnership with a simplified showroom that allows consumers the opportunity to touch and experience an appliance, then click to order it. Pop-up store partnerships would allow both Amazon and a brand to trial new markets and products while sharing the costs. Brick-and-mortar drives brand loyalty, and Amazon loyalty is built through its Prime service. Together, the two offer a unique way to both lower costs and drive customer engagement.

http://blog.xrite.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/amazon_go.0.jpeg
Image courtesy of theverge.com.

Merger and acquisition activity

We will see further consolidation of the fragmented plastics market. There are a number of smaller, independent plastics companies that offer excellent opportunities for larger players to create inorganic growth through acquisitions. In addition, I see a lot of merger and acquisition (M&A) opportunities across vertical markets, such as commercial printing and plastics used in packaging. Through M&A, companies will be able to expand their reach into a specific application. We have already started to see this happen with VisiPak’s acquisition of National Plastic, expanding the shapes and sizes of thermoform packaging, and Nanogate’s purchase of Jay Plastics to expand its high-tech plastic and coatings. For companies where M&A many not be the right strategy, they can instead invest in new injection molding plants such as Nissei in Texas.

Designing for 3D

In December 2016, Adobe rolled out its new Felix Program, which will simplify the 3D design process. This announcement has a significant effect on the graphic design community and will allow graphic designers to expand their skill set and enter 3D. Graphic designers are the largest group of designers, and they design for a slew of products. The software and ecosystem of Adobe Creative Cloud will make learning 3D easier, and integrating 3D with Adobe’s tools like Photoshop and its stock library will help to centralize the creative process.

http://blog.xrite.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Cherry_Blast.png
Composite created in Project Felix. Image courtesy of blogs.adobe.com.

Solar coating

Solar coating technology will be commercialized to turn everyday objects into energy sources. During the next few years, this technology will mature and be used on windows, roof tiles, phones, and cars. Companies to watch include NanoFlex, with its photovoltaic coating for automotive; and Tesla’s recently unveiled solar tiles for homes. Because they look like regular roof tiles, the investment is visually appealing for homeowners who did not like the look of larger mirror mountings.

http://blog.xrite.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Screen-Shot-2017-01-09-at-10.48.56-AM.png
Image courtesy of tesla.com.

Stay tuned

Only time will tell if these prediction and trends come true, but it will be interesting to see how they evolve over the next few years.

This article first appeared on Jan. 9, 2017, on the X-rite blog.

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About The Author

Shoshana Burgett’s picture

Shoshana Burgett

Shoshana Burgett is responsible for leading the X-Rite’s voice of the customer (VOC) initiative across all industries, identifying market trends and helping the company create innovative products that support emerging customer needs, now and into the future. Burgett has served in a variety of roles related to print, packaging and color management since 1986. She previously held senior management roles at Xerox and has a master’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in variable data technology and international business, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the School of Visual Arts. Follow X-Rite on Twitter @Xritecolor