6 Manufacturing Industry Trends to Watch for in 2023

You could forgive manufacturers if they winced every time they glanced at the headlines in 2022. Issues such as supply chain instability, transportation challenges, worker shortages, and inflation dominated the trade papers. But bad news often sets the stage for good news as manufacturers rise to the challenges before them by thinking outside the box and investing in incremental innovation.

So, what innovations might we see in 2023 emerging from the tumult of 2022? Here’s our guess at the top six global manufacturing trends for 2023.

1. Human-centric data-driven enterprises

Data flows throughout every organization. How smoothly and quickly an organization can gather that data and direct its flow to the workers that rely on it, in the form best suited for them to make use of it, goes a long way to determining the success that organization has in achieving its goals.

Being a human-centric data-driven enterprise means finding ways to connect workers to the flow of information in a way that drives effective decision-making. That’s why manufacturers are designing their digital transformation initiatives to always keep in mind the humans—workers, managers, and customers—that form the backbone of the manufacturing value chain.

For every person along that value chain, from the builders of the product to the users of it, manufacturers need to develop simple ways to capture data for them, flexible ways to present that data to them, and engaging ways for them to interact intuitively with that data. And doing so is going to become ever more complicated as smart products and automated manufacturing processes generate more and more data.

That’s why organizations that take full advantage of computing intelligence to make their data—whether it’s reactive information or predictive insights or prescriptive options—more human-friendly will give themselves a competitive edge in a crowded marketplace.

2. Predictable, consistent supply chains

Manufacturers are dealing with a time of dynamic fluctuation in market supply and demand. Deloitte notes that the majority of purchasing managers continue to experience system-wide complications from high consumer demand, rising costs of materials and freight, and slow deliveries.

Disruptions are common and costly, but many manufacturers are working on models to make supply chains and logistics more predictable. Replacing manual tasks with technology like AI, data analytics, and sensors can help supply chain managers identify patterns, predict purchasing demands, and better manage inventory. As Deloitte says, “digital supply networks and data analytics can be powerful enablers for more flexible, multi-tiered responses to disruptions.”

3. Connected ecosystems

A manufacturing enterprise exists as much outside the walls of its factories as it does inside them. What goes on within the walls of its suppliers and vendors (and of their suppliers and vendors) is an essential part of a manufacturer’s ecosystem.

To keep the elements of that ecosystem synchronized, even those far removed from the factory floor, manufacturers and public-private consortiums are investing in digital platforms. These platforms can knit together the value stream—downwards through the supplier chain, upwards to customers and consumers—by making it easier to securely share data and experiences, encouraging co-creating and co-innovation.

An example of efforts to nurture connected ecosystems is Catena-X, the German government’s initiative to create the first collaborative, open data ecosystem for the automotive industry. The initiative seeks to establish a standardized global data exchange that boosts resilience, innovation, and earnings. Another example is the US government’s National Strategy for Advanced Manufacturing, which includes among its aims strengthening the nation’s supply chains.

4. Hyper everything!

Hyper-automation, hyper-connectivity, and hyper-personalization will be receiving a lot of hype from manufacturing leaders and industry experts in 2023—and rightfully so! But what do these terms mean and what benefits will they bring manufacturers?

The manufacturing industry operates in highly siloed environments, and many organizations still rely on manual, time-consuming processes. Hyperautomation is powered by the orchestrated use of technologies (such as AI, sensors, and machine learning) across traditionally siloed operations (such as engineering, manufacturing, and IT management). It takes over human-run tasks and makes operations more transparent. While technology handles the repetitive, yet crucial workflows, your workforce can focus on more complex tasks, like driving innovation.

Information silos occur when different parts of a manufacturing organization make decisions in isolation from each other and when workflows occur in serial rather than in parallel. Hyperconnectivity is about stitching together people, devices, systems, and processes so that data flows smoothly between the different processes of the organization. By connecting disparate data sources, hyper-connectivity equips manufacturers to react with greater speed and better coordination to developments inside and outside the organization.

When building a product for a customer, the more you know about the customer, the better you can design a product for them. A manufacturer that doesn’t know enough about its customers is going to lose their business to a manufacturer that knows them better. Hyper-personalization is the use of real-time data, AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics to get better information about your customer and spin that information into better products. When you hyper-personalize, you create exceptional experiences that constantly take into consideration the roles, needs, backgrounds, and preferences of your customers.

5. The Industrial Internet of Things, Edge, and smart manufacturing

The Industrial Internet of Things is a network of edge devices that can securely transmit data between local networks and the cloud. Edge devices bring computing and analysis closer to where it’s needed within the manufacturing organization, strengthening operational resiliency and continuity. For example, the practice of predictive maintenance relies on embedded sensors to alert manufacturers when equipment might require upkeep and repair.

Smart manufacturing builds on the promises of the Internet of Things by seeking to create truly data-driven manufacturing organizations equipped with hyperflexible, self-adapting capabilities. Manufacturers are using smart manufacturing tools to orchestrate and optimize physical and digital processes on the shop floor and across supply chains.

Manufacturers are turning to smart manufacturing because they know that the secret to succeeding in today’s tumultuous marketplace is to maximize their organization’s agility and adaptability. According to Gartner, 86 percent of manufacturing leaders are incorporating smart manufacturing into their digital supply chain strategy, and 84 percent say that they expect smart manufacturing to boost their competitiveness.

6. The sustainable circular economy

Manufacturers are expected to deliver products at speed and scale around the globe, which inevitably puts pressure on our environment. The World Economic Forum reports that U.S. manufacturing is responsible for 23% of the country’s direct carbon emissions, while European manufacturing emits 880 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

This is because manufacturers have traditionally followed a linear “take-make-waste” model, which relies on fossil fuels, overproduction, and excessive waste. But more and more manufacturers are turning to a circular economy, a sustainable model based on the “7 Rs”: rethink, redesign, repurpose, repair, remanufacture, recycle, and recover. The circular economy seeks to promote those sustainability values by optimizing efficiency across the entire lifecycle and associated processes of manufactured products.

The circular economy leverages technologies like AI and machine learning to automate processes, streamline operations, and increase efficiency. Recycling, refurbishing, and remanufacturing processes are applied to each stage of manufacturing to reduce waste and cut costs, thus diminishing a company’s carbon footprint. Digitalizing processes also provides real-time insights to support quick decision-making that keeps manufacturers on top of sustainability goals.

Digital transformation is a crucial undertaking for any business, especially for manufacturers with manual processes, legacy systems, and siloed operations and data. By closely monitoring the latest technologies, you can identify those that will help you accelerate your digital transformation initiatives and provide you with a competitive advantage in the crowded marketplace.

The Mendix low-code application development platform is just such a technology. It scales across domains irrespective of your organization’s digital maturity or data needs. Mendix provides the tools, services, and support you need to quickly develop custom applications, portals, core systems, and other domain-specific solutions. Since low-code causes less disruption to core systems than alternative solutions, connecting people, machines, devices, systems, and workflows has never been easier. Mendix can also be used to modernize legacy systems and augment custom software development and systems integration projects.

Want to learn more? Try Mendix for free or browse our Marketplace to see our manufacturing-specific resources.