In 2023, manufacturers faced significant challenges ranging from geopolitical instabilities, skills shortages, and supply chain disruptions, further adding to the overall turbulence in the sector. Yet, despite these hurdles, manufacturers have remained committed to digital and sustainable progress—as is our commitment to help the industry reach these important goals.
Over the last 12 months, we explored several important topics for the sector at large including advancing shopfloor intelligence, creating a circular economy, the importance of fair trade manufacturing, the rise of digital supply chains, the potential of microfactories, AI and hyperautomation, developing increased cyber resilience, why hyper-personalisation is changing production, and generative AI and the industrial metaverse. We covered significant ground, spearheading much-needed conversation on sustainability and digital transformation.
This year, we will continue to shine a light on the challenges, opportunities, and trends for the sector as we partner with industry and governments to advance the manufacturing sector globally. To kick off our 2024 insights, we start by taking a deeper dive into the five key areas that manufacturing leaders need to have on their agenda as they edge closer to a greener manufacturing world.
1. Accelerating efforts to close the sustainability gap
Globally, countries have committed at least USD 700 million to improving sustainability across industries. This commitment is evident by the landmark agreement at COP28, where the world united in its fight to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
In line with this, the manufacturing sector’s environment, social, and governance (ESG) goals continue to be a top priority moving forward. With around two-thirds of the world’s total GHG emissions produced by manufacturing, creating greener processes, reducing waste, and achieving Net Zero remain key priorities for manufacturers to close the sustainability gap.
The good news is more companies are making a stronger effort to reduce emissions. The World Economic Forum has stated that 20 industrial clusters in 10 countries and four continents in their “Transitioning Industrial Clusters” initiative, along with three industrial powerhouses – the United States, China, and France – have cemented their commitment to reaching Net Zero by 2050, making this a significant step forward for not just the industry, but the world.
2. Increasing use of Generative AI to optimise automation
Generative AI’s overall market value in the manufacturing sector is projected to rise from US$225 million in 2022 to US$6,963.45 million by 2032.
Generative AI’s application in manufacturing will improve production and operational processes thanks to advanced predictive algorithms that can optimise automation. Using generative AI will have knock-on effects on the supply chain as well. With greater adoption of this smart technology, manufacturers who are in the middle of digitalising their supply chains can look forward to even greater supply chain resilience and sustainability benefits thanks to smarter forecasting, and clearer end-to-end visibility, leading to reduced waste and quicker turnaround times.
Additionally, as consumers demand for customised products and solutions grows, generative AI will play an important role in the hyper-personalisation of manufacturing. Expect increasing interest in AI and machine learning as companies explore how they can leverage these technologies to better meet customer needs and wants.
3. Keeping a closer eye on regulations and compliance
While manufacturers may be keen to move the needle regarding process optimisation, continuous improvement, and sustainability management, regulatory standards will impact what manufacturers can and can’t do.
Complex government regulations and compliance processes could become even bigger stumbling blocks. Most of the respondents in an Deloitte and Confederation of Indian Industry survey indicated that issues like outdated requirements, unclear legislation, and convoluted procedures have impacted their compliance management across the organisation. Manufacturers will need to develop comprehensive strategies and stronger connections with regulatory bodies to better understand how to effective meet compliance standards.
4. Bolstering software and operational technology cybersecurity
With more complex and advanced technologies introduced in this phase of rapid digital transformation, manufacturers must not neglect to update their information technology (IT) capabilities. Reports have indicated that more manufacturers are looking to upgrade their software suite, with around 54% of manufacturing companies increasing their software investment by 10% in 2024 compared to 2023.
Upgrading software is not enough: manufacturers must remember that operational technology (OT) is just as important, particularly when digital transformation is leading to even smarter Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions becoming more prevalent Leaders can’t view cybersecurity as merely an IT issue – OT needs even more protection than ever with increasing interconnectedness.
5. Enhancing the digitalised supply chain for better performance
As mentioned earlier, digitalised supply chains will play a bigger role in manufacturing operations than before, improving overall resilience and enhancing performance. Manufacturers must keep their finger on the pulse of supply chain solutions as these will be game changers for developing stronger supply chains.
Reports have indicated more manufacturers are exploring the manufacturing metaverse for improving resilience, visibility, and performance. Furthermore, blockchain technology can potentially provide numerous benefits for the manufacturing supply chain, including faster response times, upgraded end-to-end visibility and traceability, fully digitalised management, and more convenient compliance auditing.
In summary, manufacturers must keep their eye on the ball in the year ahead and continue the push towards a more sustainable and digital future. They must address the challenges, be across the emerging trends listed above, and make sure that they have the right strategies, frameworks and tools in place to manage digital and sustainability transformation goals. By using globally recognised maturity assessment frameworks like the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) and the Consumer Sustainability Industry Readiness Index (COSIRI), manufacturers will gain the ability and greater confidence to measure, compare, and improve themselves against their peers, leading to greater success for all.throughout the entire organisation.