The future’s game-changing trends in manufacturing. By Luke Smoothy

The past few years have shown us that predicting the future is a fool’s game, but what we do know is that emerging supply chain management trends have been shaping the manufacturing industry in recent years and are likely to continue growing. Not just that, but could having these systems embedded in our manufacturing operations make us better prepared and actually become critical in overcoming further unexpected disruption?

I believe these points below are the key criteria manufacturers must now implement (if they haven’t already) to advance their businesses:

Supply chain digitization

The digital transformation of supply chains will continue to accelerate. Technologies such as blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud computing will enable end-to-end visibility, traceability, and transparency across the supply chain. Smart sensors and connected devices will provide real-time data on inventory levels, production status, and logistics movements, facilitating efficient decision-making and optimizing resource allocation.

Manufacturing as a Service (MaaS)

MaaS is one of the key opportunities unlocked by widescale business digitization. The current supply chain disruption calls out for alignment and the removal of friction, making sure projects run smoothly from quotation to delivery of parts. In the future, more manufacturers will look to implement MaaS as a one-stop solution and see it more as a critical part of the manufacturing process to encourage efficiency, make businesses leaner, and better build customer relationships.

This is sure to be the case with the multitude of benefits offered to companies by MaaS, one major advantage being cost savings, as their ongoing costs are consolidated into an easier-to-manage single contract, leading to lower overhead and improved profitability. One area that could become the keystone in MaaS is additive manufacturing, by offering remote 3D printing services to companies that need components and other critical machined products. Multiple companies are already demonstrating how 3D printing is becoming the most shareable manufacturing asset to date.

It is combining innovation with the power of the sharing economy by providing faster prototyping, quicker time-to-market and the ability to personalize short runs of products.

Resilience and risk management

Supply chain disruptions have underscored the importance of building resilient and robust supply chains. In the future, SCM will prioritize risk identification, mitigation, and contingency planning to ensure uninterrupted flow of materials, components, and finished goods. This may involve diversifying sourcing locations, building redundancy in the supply base, and implementing agile strategies to quickly adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

Sourcing closer to home is also driving a new trend. Since Covid, 40 percent of manufacturers said they had increased their UK suppliers, and 20 percent have increased suppliers in the EU, despite barriers. Strategically sourcing items from a combination of different countries and regions reduces the concern about a single large storm pushing out a shipment or geopolitical issues in one particular country.

Sustainability and ethical practices

Sustainability and ethical considerations will shape the future of SCM in manufacturing. As we’re now increasingly seeing, sustainability is no longer about companies merely ticking a box; stakeholders and consumers are now demanding more. As organizations focus on their sustainability initiatives through the adoption of a robust ESG strategy, manufacturers must take a holistic approach when reviewing their business and workflow processes, to ensure that they’re delivering end-to-end solutions with a lower environmental footprint.

Organizations will increase focus on reducing carbon emissions, minimizing waste, and implementing sustainable practices throughout the supply chain. This includes responsible sourcing of raw materials, promoting fair labor practices, and ensuring transparency in supplier relationships. SCM will play a crucial role in managing and monitoring sustainable practices across the entire value ecosystems chain.

Collaboration and partnerships

Collaboration and partnerships will become increasingly important in SCM. Manufacturers will actively collaborate with suppliers, customers, and logistics providers to streamline processes, enhance visibility, and achieve shared objectives. Collaborative platforms and digitization will facilitate information sharing, coordination, and integrated decision-making, resulting in improved supply chain agility and customer satisfaction.

Talent development and skillsets

The evolving nature of SCM in manufacturing will require professionals with diverse skillsets. Future supply chain managers will need to possess a strong understanding of emerging technologies, data analytics, and sustainability practices. The ability to analyze complex data, make data-driven decisions, and effectively collaborate with stakeholders will be critical for successful supply chain management.

There is no doubt that the future role of SCM in manufacturing will revolve around these growing trends to navigate an increasingly complex and interconnected global supply chain landscape. Yet we have only scratched the surface, as we look forward to seeing more innovation embraced as the manufacturing industry undergoes a once-in-a-century transformation driven by so many changing factors and challenges, all paving the way for greater opportunity in the sector.

For a list of the sources used in this article, please contact the editor.

Luke Smoothy

Luke Smoothy is Founder and Director of London-based manufacturing specialist Get It Made. Founded in 2011 with just £200, Get It Made is underpinned by his mission to make manufacturing simple. After experiencing first-hand how difficult manufacturing can be, Luke wanted to offer a better solution to designers and engineers everywhere. A solution that had great quality, competitive pricing and most importantly, flawless communication. Today, the London-based company is a multi-million-pound a year business and an ISO 9001 accredited manufacturing partner, providing outstanding manufacturing services to companies across the globe.