The past few years have brought an immense array of challenges to the manufacturing industry, but the industry has risen to the occasion and is stronger because of it. In 2022, a year when supply chain shortages and fears of a recession made headlines around the world, the US manufacturing industry hired more workers than any year since 1994. Technology has helped to fuel this growth. 

In 2023, the manufacturing industry in general, and mid-size manufacturers in particular, will face challenges old and new. Manufacturers that are able to incorporate 4.0 technologies into their organizations will be more agile and come out on top in the end. 

Here are five things manufacturers should look for in 2023: 

  1. US manufacturing booms

Despite economic headwinds, US manufacturing is poised to maintain momentum and continue growing in 2023. In fact, as companies seek to refine supply chains to avoid disruptions, reshoring will continue in earnest. Companies moving operations to the US will look for innovative ways to rethink how they work. They won’t simply copy practices from overseas factories. Instead, they’ll look for ways to digitize operations with 4.0 technologies to drive down costs and improve efficiency. 

For years, mid-size manufacturers have been priced out of industry 4.0 solutions. Now, the tides are changing as prices drop. In 2023, we’ll see legacy factories transformed into smart factories, and new operations will hit the ground running with advanced technology. At FactoryEye, we help accelerate this growth by integrating advanced technologies with legacy machines and systems. This ensures that smart factory status is accessible even for those without the budget to overhaul the shop floor.

  1. Cybersecurity goes from defense to design

In 2021, 55% of manufacturing and production companies experienced ransomware attacks. Unfortunately, cybersecurity attacks will continue to rise, and manufacturers will be prime targets. In the past, cybersecurity was often thought of as a defensive measure tacked onto existing systems. Furthermore, companies took a piecemeal approach, resulting in different protocols and standards for IT and OT. 

This no longer works for the smart manufacturer of the 21st century. Now, manufacturers must embed cybersecurity into the design of systems at every level to protect themselves from attacks and comply with increasing government regulations around cybersecurity.

However, most mid-size manufacturers don’t have in-house cybersecurity experts. Therefore, as they move manufacturing data to the cloud, they must partner with companies that understand cloud security. At FactoryEye, we follow security-by-design principles to ensure that security is in the DNA of our solution, not an afterthought. Furthermore, with role-based access, users can only access data they have permission to access, limiting the risk of data leaks through phishing attacks.

  1. Leaders learn to expect the unexpected

From the pandemic to the war in Ukraine, supply chain volatility has been a hallmark of the past few years. Many manufacturers were caught flat-footed and had to scramble to keep up. They would have given anything to know what was coming. While you can’t change the past or predict the future, you can prepare for the future by building agility into your operations. Then, when the unexpected occurs, you’re ready to adjust.

This agility doesn’t come easily. Adapting to an ever-changing business environment requires manufacturers to find flexible tools. Look for industry 4.0 solutions that strike a balance between being easy to set up with preconfigured options while also being customizable so you can make changes down the line. 

At FactoryEye, our preconfigured solutions bring manufacturers value right out of the box. However, as new challenges arise and data needs change, manufacturers can change the configuration themselves. A combination of intuitive user dashboards and a powerful underlying data lake make this possible. With this, manufacturers get the best of both worlds: solve today’s problems quickly and adapt to solve tomorrow’s problems without needing to invest in a new solution. 

  1. Double down on digital transformation or be left behind

Multiple industry surveys reveal that manufacturers plan to invest heavily in technology. Forrester reports that tech spending will surpass a staggering $4.8 trillion in 2023. And It’s not just the big companies that are making technology investments. HFS Research reports that 88% of North American manufacturers increased their technology budgets in 2022. As digital transformation continues to become more accessible through lower costs and innovative implementation strategies, smart manufacturing will go from cutting-edge to the requirement to be competitive.

However, just because manufacturers of all sizes are investing in technology doesn’t mean that they should do so in the same way. For mid-size manufacturers, it’s critical to see ROI as fast as possible. This requires two things: a strategic implementation plan and maximizing legacy systems.

At FactoryEye, we’ve designed a phased implementation process specifically with mid-size manufacturers in mind. We recognize that changing operations processes is an intimidating proposal, especially when they’ve remained largely unchanged for decades. Our strategy breaks your journey to smart manufacturing into short sprints, most under 60-90 days. This allows manufacturers to fund their industry 4.0 initiatives with the ROI from each sprint. That way, mid-size manufacturers reap the benefits of digital transformation without needing to go into massive debt, and they’re able to see a proof-of-concept without upending processes overnight.

Part of what makes this strategy work is leveraging existing machines. While large manufacturers might be able to buy all new machines to achieve their smart manufacturing goals, most mid-size manufacturers can’t afford that. Luckily, they don’t need to. Mid-size manufacturers can upgrade many legacy machines with affordable IIoT devices and transform these machines into valuable data sources. 

  1. AI comes of age

For decades, analysts have touted AI as “the next big thing,” but it’s always been slightly out of reach. 2023 is the year when AI comes of age. Manufacturers that invest in smart manufacturing today will be able to turn data into insight faster than ever thanks to AI, and they’ll benefit from AI-powered machine learning to fuel continuous improvement. As AI matures, it becomes more valuable, so it’s no wonder that the AI software market is projected to grow 50% faster than the overall software market, or that AI software spend is set to double from 2021 to 2025, reaching $64 billion

Data is the fuel that powers AI, and it takes lots of it. If mid-size manufacturers want to take advantage of the opportunities AI presents, they’ll need to collect more data than they ever had before. Old-school data historians and data marts won’t cut it. Manufacturers must instead turn to cloud-based solutions, and none rival the power of data lakes. 

Data lakes, which are at the core of FactoryEye’s cutting-edge solutions, can ingest data in all formats while preserving the original data–something data warehouses and other alternatives cannot. Then, if you need to analyze data differently in the future, you’ll be able to quickly change user-defined dashboards without needing to rework the underlying architecture.

We developed our data lake architecture specifically to solve the problems of modern data management. We tried SQL databases. We tried time-series databases. Neither could solve the challenges facing manufacturers. Then, we developed our data lake solution, allowing you to collect, process, and analyze unprecedented amounts of data. Only with this processing power can you maximize the potential of AI. 

If talk of AI and data lakes sounds complicated, that’s because it is—in part, at least. The technology driving smart manufacturing is highly advanced, but the complexity remains behind the scenes for outside partners, like FactoryEye, to manage. Manufacturers can focus on prodution and get a simplified MES while we handle the technical details. As a result, they have more sophisticated technology than ever while worrying about IT less than ever.

Get ready for what’s next

As technology revolutionizes manufacturing, the opportunities for mid-size manufacturers are immense. But the window of time to get ahead of peers and lead the pack is narrowing. The next twelve months will be decisive. 

If you want to learn more about the next steps in your smart manufacturing journey, our team would be happy to help. To schedule a call, click here.