Manufacturing Forecasts 2024

As 2023 winds down, it’s an ideal time to consider manufacturing trends and predictions that may affect your goals, plans and budgets for the year ahead.

Overall, there’s an expectation that interest rates will fall in the middle of 2024, fueling more consistent economic growth and acceleration by the end of the year, reports Dodge Construction Network chief economist Richard Branch in Engineering News-Record. Escalating tensions in the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine may present difficulties, however, as will continued labor issues. Alan Beaulieu, president of ITR Economics, recently told the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) that, “The good news is manufacturers will gain economic strength in this country and secure our economic wellbeing for generations to come. But for the individual manufacturer, there will be higher competition for workers in an already labor-scarce market, and that problem will persist for years. The only hope for companies to survive is to drive efficiencies by adopting automation and other advanced technologies.”

CNC Machine Operator worker productivity

Automating for Worker Productivity and Efficiency

For manufacturers feeling the continued pressures of the labor market, they’ve been heeding Beaulieu’s advice and turning toward technology to increase worker productivity while minimizing costs. There’s many examples of this occurring on the shop floor; let’s dive into three:

  1. “I’m trying to upgrade the machines in my shop to a more modern way of communicating with add-ons to keep costs low.” This manufacturer knows it can’t afford to upgrade its machines altogether. DNC software from manufacturing integrator Shop Floor Automations (SFA) was recommended by a user, sharing their experience that “all machines had their serial to WiFi and it was flawless sending from the DNC computer.” That same user leaned on SFA for machine monitoring software as well, noting that management loved knowing when night shift “truly ran great” based on progress reports from the software.
  2. Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere, says Bernard Marr in Forbes. Use cases are often described within enterprise organizations, such as Hitachi’s AI-generated training videos to ramp up new workers in maintenance and manufacturing. But that doesn’t mean small-to-mid-sized manufacturers can’t leverage this technology in 2024. CGTech’s CNC machine simulation solution VERICUT 9.1, for example, uses AI to learn from cutting while simulation occurs to automatically set up tools for optimization and then auto-optimizes NC programs after learning.
  3. From the outset, Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) compliance would seem to decrease worker productivity as the control of removable media, including PCMCIA cards and USB drives typically used to transfer CNC programs, is significantly tightened, if not prohibited altogether. But for manufacturers still relying on such media, they know the inefficiency – and costs – of uploading programs and getting routers per part. The use of one industrial DNC software network for all your CNC machines, robots, CMMs, PLCs, 3D printers and other equipment can help streamline the CNC program transfer process as well as provide revision control. It’s just in time, too, as CMMC is expected to be included in public contracts sometime in 2024.
manufacturing speed

By partnering with a manufacturing integrator, you’ll be best positioned to address enduring workforce issues at the lightning pace of the modern digital economy.

“The only hope for companies to survive is to drive efficiencies by adopting automation and other advanced technologies.”

While manufacturers look to technology to fill the labor gap and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution that will be able to address enduring workforce issues at the lightning pace of the modern digital economy. Only by partnering with a manufacturing integrator that understands your existing environment – and the direction you’re headed toward – will you be best positioned to tackle the trends and predictions awaiting you in 2024. Contact SFA today to discuss your strategic initiatives of tomorrow.

A shop floor employee gets work done on his laptop with the help of digital tools, which are symbolized by the floating clip art bubbles.

Shaping Your Digital Transformation on the Shop Floor

A digital transformation journey can vary from company to company; find out what it could look like in your own manufacturing environment.

Digital tranformation in manufacturing - Shop Floor Automations

The global digital transformation market isn’t just booming – it’s growing at a steady rate of 20.8% CAGR per year. Because businesses are rapidly implementing these customer-driven growth strategies, it’s critical that you look into automated solutions for your own shop floor.

But what is digital transformation? And why should it be important to your manufacturing organization? Read on to answer these questions with this guide to shop floor digital transformation.

Shop Floor Digital Transformation: The Basics

‘Digital transformation’ is a broad concept that encompasses a “foundational change in how an organization delivers value to its customers,” describes CIO magazine, that includes the folding of new technologies and processes into business operations. The point of this concept is to streamline business in an increasingly digital world by using the technology at our disposal.

Transforming your business into a digital framework doesn’t focus on one singular aspect of the business, such as sales or quality assurance. Rather, it’s a shift in mindset and the overall way that your business functions. By incorporating digital technologies in all areas of your business, you stand to increase overall productivity and efficiency through greater visibility, automation and integration.

“Companies’ adoption of digital technologies has sped up by three to seven years in just months, with companies accelerating efforts for fear of being outflanked by competitors,” says Laura Laberge, McKinsey director of capabilities for digital strategy

What Does Digital Transformation Look Like?

Because digital transformation is a strategic initiative, it’s important to look at some of the specific things that make it successful. Automation is one of the core ways that businesses make this transition.

In the past, data collection and receipt was often a manual process – whether through data entry, handwritten notes and even some EDI setups that require human checkpoints and updates. Shop floor machinery also needed to be manually monitored and tracked. This wasn’t just difficult, but left a lot of room for human error.

Today, the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and other automation technologies have vastly improved the means with which manufacturers can remotely monitor machine utilization and output for significant insights into trends, failure predictions, capacity constraints and more. Advances in user-friendly interfaces and functionality make solutions far easier for operators to adopt and use on a regular basis.

CNC milling tooling - remote machine operation

Today automation technologies have vastly improved the means with which manufacturers can remotely monitor machine utilization and output for significant insights and better decision-making.

Software isn’t the only aspect of a shop floor transformation, however. Hardware can play a key role in increasing the visibility of data collection for uptime improvements, such as through the display of dashboards monitors on the floor, or even increasing program storage and NC program transferring capabilities among older machinery by outfitting them with portable floppy drives.

What Are the Benefits of Digital Transformation?

There are a plethora of benefits of digitally transforming your shop floor. They can include:

  • Increased capacity to meet customer needs and demands
  • Faster and more streamlined machine use
  • Reduction and optimization of time spent operating machinery
  • Greater access to documentation/file organization
  • Fewer opportunities for human error
  • High-level monitoring for all types of machines
  • Remote monitoring capabilities from mobile devices
  • Absorbing new competitive advantage(s) over other manufacturers
  • Faster manufacturing processes to decrease customer wait times
  • Improved overall customer experience to impact retention and business development efforts

Regardless of your desired end result, a well-executed shop floor digital transformation can have a direct impact on revenues, even during times of crisis. McKinsey reports that “organizations that experimented with new digital technologies…and among those that invested more capital expenditures in digital technology than their peers did, executives are twice as likely to report outsize revenue growth than executives at other companies.”

Get Started on Your Digital Transformation Journey

So how do you get started on your own shop floor digital transformation journey? One approach may be to compile gaps in information that are necessary to produce better decision-making across departments. As a preferred manufacturing integrator, Shop Floor Automations has the resources to help you identify and bridge such gaps with the latest available technologies. Contact us to set up your digital transformation consultation today.