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Why US Manufacturing is Back on Top and Trends to Ride

USA_BarcodeOne of the biggest manufacturing stories heading into 2015 is that the US as a nation is predicted to be a primary driver of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Three years ago, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that the world economy would be back on track by 2015, growing at 4.8 percent. The US has pretty much met the IMF’s expectations while BRIC nations—Brazil, Russia, India and China—as well as parts of the Middle East, Europe and Japan have not.

How did the US regain its manufacturing edge?

Here are a few reasons: North Dakota is killing it with shale oil production; Seattle solved its battery problem and is now backlogged with Boeing contracts, and in Silicon Valley, Apple can’t make iPhones and iPads fast enough. Oh, and did I mention Google as a job-driving juggernaut?

In this two-part series, we examine some manufacturing industry trends that organizations cannot afford to ignore in 2015. Companies ranging from enterprises to startups need to know where the dollars lie and the dangers lurk. It doesn’t mean you have to act today but implementing them into your strategic decisions may benefit your business.

1. Ubiquitous Computing

As mobile devices continue to proliferate there will be an increased emphasis on serving the needs of the mobile user in diverse contexts and environments—not just the devices alone.

A report by Gartner recently stated: “Phones and wearable devices are now part of an expanded computing environment that includes such things as consumer electronics and connected screens in the workplace and public space. Increasingly, it’s the overall environment that will need to adapt to the requirements of the mobile user vs the other way around. This will continue to raise significant management challenges for IT organizations as they lose control of user endpoint devices.”

2. The Internet of Things (IoT)

If you’ve been confused about what exactly the Internet of Things means and why you should care about it—you’re hardly alone. In fact, nearly half (43%) of the manufacturing executives polled recently by LNS Research said they don’t know anything about the IoT. What’s more, only 10% say they’ve started to invest in IoT technologies.

As a working definition Internet of Things (IoT) is the advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications.[1] The interconnection of these embedded devices will usher in omnipresent automation in nearly all fields.

“Things”, in the IoT, can refer to a wide variety of devices, such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, automobiles with built-in sensors or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue. Current market examples include smart thermostat systems and washer/dryers that utilize wifi for remote monitoring.

As user-oriented computing expands, so will the Internet of Things. Analysts posit that data streams and services prompted by the IoT provide a chance to develop innovative business models. This leads IT leaders to ask these key questions:

  • How can we manage our processes or products better?
  • Where could we come up with new payment mechanisms to monetize aspects of the Internet of Things, with pay-per-use types of models as an example?
  • Where can we use the Internet of Things to embed technologies for remote operation and management of our assets?
  • How can we extend our existing products with the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Bottom line is that when it comes to IoT, managers should “embrace the maker culture” to continuously come up with new solutions; in fact, we have already seen an increase in interest in IoT from companies worldwide over 2014—ranging from the driverless connected car, to Google’s Nest thermostats.

3) Advanced, Pervasive and Invisible Analytics

Analytics will continue to scale in importance as the volume of data generated by embedded systems increases and vast pools of structured and unstructured data are analyzed. You could make the argument that every app now needs to be an analytic app.

Analysts tend to agree that the main challenge organizations will face is deciding how to best manage and filter the huge amounts of data coming from the IoT, social media, and wearable devices, and then parse and deliver exactly the right information to the right person, at the right time. It’s a good bet that analytics will become more deeply, but invisibly, embedded everywhere.

2015 will signal the emergence of predictive analytics within business intelligence. The two are tethered together but to actually predict decisions based on advanced analytics has not become a reality. Historically, Business Intelligence has focused mainly on reporting, not on the next best step of digesting, parsing, and analyzing…until next year.

It’s an exciting time for innovative product companies. As product lifespans shrink, flexibility becomes imperative for staying competitive. Because of this, many companies are finding faster ways to respond to market demands, thanks to social media and a broad range of real-time data tools.

Disruptive change can appear out of nowhere and fast-moving technology trends seem to happen overnight. And while companies are constantly finding themselves challenged to keep up-to-date with the latest tools many are still reluctant to change and continue to try and brute-force it with spreadsheets.

What are your thoughts? What other trends should manufacturers pay attention to for a successful 2015 and beyond?