Jeff Moad, executive editor at Manufacturing Executive, wrote a great post about the trends and challenges awaiting manufacturers in 2012. Beyond the basic political, economic outlook, he cited two particular trends that are becoming more and more common throughout the manufacturing world, affecting businesses in a wide variety of industries:
Soaring Customer Expectations Lead to Increased Complexity
Blame it on the Internet which has taught customers in all industries to expect practically unlimited product variety and near immediate availability. Throw in the need to satisfy the sometimes unique requirements of customers in developing economies around the world, and you end up with substantially increasing complexity facing just about every manufacturing process, from new product innovation to production planning, through to post-sales support. As one of the recent winners of the Manufacturing Executive MegaTrends contest noted, this means more SKUs to manage and more complex networks of suppliers. And this will only increase in 2012 as concepts such as mass customization take hold in more manufacturing verticals.
The Focus Shifts from Planning to Real-Time Visibility and Quick Response
Even as complexity increases, customers are demanding shorter lead times. (Hey, they’ve got their own complexity issues to contend with.) The only way for manufacturers to cope is to build more agility into the system. Don’t get me wrong. Forecasts and planning won’t go away. But manufacturers in 2012 will be placing more emphasis on spotting things like shifts in demand, quality problems, and supply shortages as soon as or even before they actually occur. Monitoring and analyzing such events in near real time will become a big deal, as will the need to build agility into production networks so that, when demand suddenly spikes in Mumbai, you can quickly and profitably adjust by boosting production in South Carolina. Global process standards also will become a major focus as manufacturers seek to gain global visibility and agility.
How will your business adapt to these changes?