Technology is becoming a major focus for Asian manufacturers. Many governments are incentivising companies to invest in new manufacturing technologies, and the manufacturing sector in Asia has undergone significant change in recent years. Manufacturing will continue to be shaped in 2024 and beyond, by technological advances. Significant trends are emerging that manufacturers should be watching. These trends will make a difference to manufacturers internally, helping them to become stronger and more flexible to deal with future changes and disruptions.
1. Industry 4.0 and Artificial Intelligence
Industry 4.0 (what used to be called the Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR) has been around since 2011. It involves the integration of digital technologies into manufacturing and industrial processes that can communicate, analyse, and act upon information. This enables organisations to be more flexible and responsive and make more intelligent, data-driven decisions. However, the introduction and explosive growth of artificial intelligence (AI) in 2023 has put a new spin on how manufacturers can use AI to make their factories even smarter than they were before.
Manufacturers have started integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) into the production plant via sensors. Industry 4.0 with AI will revolutionise how companies collect, process, and extract insights from IoT data. With machine learning algorithms, manufacturers can gather and analyse data generated by sensors, machines, and other connected devices. This will significantly improve productivity, reduce equipment failure rates, increase production efficiency and help identify new business opportunities.
2. Inventory management
Effective inventory management allows manufacturers to coordinate the actions and requirements of the business so that stocks are maintained at the right place, at the right time, and in the right quantities to satisfy customer demands and the production process.
Inventory management is becoming increasingly cloud-based, allowing businesses to access their inventory data from anywhere, at any time, and on any device with an internet connection. This provides real-time information so that informed decisions can be based on up-to-date data, and manufacturers can respond quickly to changing market and customer conditions.
With AI, it will be possible to use historical data and market trends to forecast demand and optimise inventory levels with more accuracy and reliability than before. This will increase efficiency, reduce operating costs, and enhance customer satisfaction by ensuring the right products are always available when needed.
3. Supply chain
According to the Association for Supply Chain Management one priority for supply chain and inventory managers is supply chain digitalisation. Replacing manual processes with digital systems provides additional supply chain visibility to mitigate issues quicker.
Another priority is using IoT to enable manufacturers to track goods in real-time throughout the supply chain. This can save administrative time for tracking items and reduce the risk of theft or losing items.
In response to supply chain disruptions over the past few years, many manufacturers are reevaluating where they acquire raw materials and parts, this includes alternative or backup suppliers.
AI appears again in procurement with the adoption of machine learning leading to streamlining operations, making better decisions, and building stronger supplier relationships. In another area, as procurement becomes increasingly part of a supplier portal ecosystem, manufacturers can place and track orders from suppliers with greater reliability, and reduce the risk of wrong orders or broken delivery promises.
4. Shop floor data collection
With manufacturers adding IoT devices and other sensors to production machinery, they need a system to collect that data to keep track of how production schedules are being adhered to and the progress of jobs on the factory floor. In the past, this was primarily a manual process, but automating this process can deliver a competitive advantage. By collecting accurate, real-time data, manufacturers can improve production processes, reduce waste and costs.
Incorporating this data into a manufacturing operations management system, companies can get a 360-degree view of what is happening on the shop floor. This allows manufacturers to plan and schedule jobs more quickly and accurately, increase production efficiency and resource utilisation, and make this information easily available to the shop floor.
As part of a global focus on sustainability and ESG (environment, social and governance) reporting, Asian manufacturers are having to ensure that their products adhere to sustainability regulations that are being set up in their major markets. Companies now need to evaluate their entire value chain to see that they comply with a variety of regulations. This is not just a cost factor. The value of sustainability initiatives can actually lead to cost savings related to decreased energy usage and resource wastage, and improve quality, and enable product innovation.
Companies with successful sustainability programs can improve their market position and brand strength, attract customers who are looking for companies that apply sustainability considerations, and allow those companies to more easily adapt to changes in regulatory requirements.
How these trends will impact manufacturers
Most forecasters agree that the greatest impact in the coming years for Asian Manufacturers will come from the use of AI in many areas of business. This will require changes in organisation structure, processes and staffing. Digitisation will become more entrenched in factories, and manufacturers will come to use real-time data to make quicker and more informed decisions. In addition, as the focus on the environment becomes increasingly greener, manufacturers will have to be critically aware of how their processes and products can are considered sustainable.