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5 Manufacturing Trends to Watch in 2024

The new year is here, and with it comes new opportunities and challenges, as well as some intriguing trends. While some of these trends could reshape the industry as we know it, many are little more than passing fads; others are simply precursors to more significant developments.

The question is, which trends are worth your time and focus in 2024? Join us as we explore the top five manufacturing trends you should be paying attention to this year. 


The Proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Manufacturing

Interestingly, the manufacturing industry seems to have a completely different stance on AI than the average consumer. Roughly one-third of millennials and just 10% of baby boomers trust artificial intelligence. By contrast, 93% of manufacturing businesses believe AI will be pivotal in driving innovation and growth, according to Deloitte. 

Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the manufacturing sector by offering unprecedented efficiency, accuracy, and innovation. AI’s applications in manufacturing range from enhancing operational efficiency through predictive maintenance to improving product quality via advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms. 

Predictive maintenance, for instance, leverages AI to analyze data from machinery sensors, identifying potential failures before they occur. This proactive approach extends equipment life and reduces unplanned downtime, saving manufacturers substantial costs and improving productivity.

The market size for AI in manufacturing is exploding, too. According to the same Deloitte report, the U.S. AI manufacturing space has enjoyed a 40% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) since 2019. By 2025, the market is expected to be valued at $2 billion.

The bottom line is that manufacturers everywhere are embracing AI. If you want to keep pace in this quickly evolving industry, you’ll need to do the same. 


Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Manufacturing

Manufacturers sometimes feel disconnected from end consumers. This is unsurprising, as numerous links in the supply chain lie between them and the people who buy their products. However, consumers drive demand, which means manufacturers must stay in tune with what people want. Today’s consumers feel very strongly about sustainability.

According to a 2023 survey, 78% of consumers think sustainability is important. Significantly, 55% of respondents are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products. Researchers also discovered that poor environmental practices will make the majority of consumers (84%) feel alienated from a company.

In response, manufacturing leaders are reimagining the way they approach business management. While efficiency and productivity remain high on their list of priorities, sustainability has become a primary focus as well. 

According to a survey of manufacturing executives, 58% of respondents believe sustainability is critical to their competitiveness. The survey also found that 68% of executives are implementing corporation-wide sustainability strategies. 

The survey was conducted in 2022. In all likelihood, an even higher percentage of manufacturers have adopted eco-friendly strategies in the intervening time.


Customization and Personalization at Scale

For decades, manufacturers have relied on bulk production practices to tap into the economy of scale.

However, one out of three consumers say standard products don’t meet their expectations. Instead, they want customized, personalized goods. Consumers are also willing to pay more for these goods, especially furniture, footwear, clothing, and fashion accessories.

Technological advances like 3D printing have made it feasible for manufacturers to offer personalized products without sacrificing efficiency or significantly increasing costs. This capability to customize products on a large scale is a game-changer, allowing manufacturers to cater to niche markets and individual consumer demands.

For instance, Adidas has used 3D printing technology to create shoes that can be customized to the individual’s foot shape and running style.

Such products offer a level of personalization previously unattainable at scale. This not only enhances customer satisfaction but also sets new standards in product innovation and market differentiation.

Moreover, the rise of digital platforms and advanced analytics enables manufacturers to gather detailed customer insights, further driving the personalization trend. By understanding customer preferences and behaviors, you can tailor your offerings more precisely, creating products that resonate strongly with your target audience.  


The Integration of IoT and Smart Manufacturing

In 2024, the internet of things (IoT) market is projected to reach a value of $325.8 billion. The internet of things refers to internet-connected edge devices. In the consumer space, IoT devices include smart watches, Wi-Fi-enabled appliances, smart TVs, and connected vehicles.

IoT devices can also be found in the manufacturing world. Manufacturers use internet-connected machinery to gather real-time data about operational productivity and efficiency. Everything from ring wrapping systems to conveyor belts and inventory shuttles can be connected to a centralized manufacturing management system.

By providing the ability to measure everything, IoT manufacturing equipment gives you unprecedented visibility into your facility. You can take the guesswork out of running your business, pinpoint bottlenecks before they impact your bottom line, and get more done.


Supply Chain Resilience and Agility 

Increasing supply chain resilience is another top priority for manufacturers in 2024. According to McKinsey, a “prolonged shock to production” could wipe out 30%–50% of a company’s annual earnings before accounting for interest, taxes, and depreciation.

Think about it: could your business weather a multi-week disruption to its supply of raw materials and components? Do you even have a trading partner you could pivot to? If the mere thought of such a disruption has you clenching your desk in anxiety, it’s time to prioritize supply chain resilience.

Gartner found that just 21% of supply chain organizations have a highly resilient network. The good news is that you can begin solidifying your network by diversifying your trading partners and running what-if scenarios. You should also have contingencies in place to mitigate the impacts of supply chain disruptions. 


Looking Ahead to 2024

With 2024 well underway, it’s important to familiarize yourself with these trends and their implications for the manufacturing industry.

Embracing AI, prioritizing sustainability, adapting to the demand for customization, integrating IoT for intelligent manufacturing, and building resilient supply chains are all necessary strategies for future-proofing your operations.

You can set the stage for ongoing innovation and sustainability by leaning into these trends. Adopting some of them can admittedly be difficult. That said, the future of manufacturing is filled with endless possibilities, provided you’re up to the challenge.


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