Each year, manufacturers are on the lookout for innovative ways to overcome unique
challenges while advancing in efficiency and productivity. The pandemic has created its
own distinct set of challenges, and the industry world has risen to meet them. This year,
producers are continuing to look towards the future and utilise trends that drive
technology while building towards better and more sustainable manufacturing practices.
The top industry trends of 2022 are focused on safety, connection, automating and
becoming more resource-friendly.

Employee health and safety
Even during the height of the pandemic, factory employees were often unable to work
from home. Famously, a number of companies acted poorly and put production ahead
of their workers’ health and safety. Although employee wellbeing should always be at
the forefront of manufacturing practices, it is listed as a trend due to its growing
importance in the pandemic years – both to consumers and producers.
Manufacturers are putting in place more precautionary protocols as well as investing
quite a bit of technology and innovation toward employee health. For example, some
industries have begun to integrate advanced equipment that can monitor employee
temperatures and locations to improve safety conditions. Also, as certain technology
grows, such as VR, employees may be more able to work safely and remotely from
anywhere in the world.

AI, ML, and VR
The challenges presented to us during COVID-19 have industry leaders looking toward
technologies that can connect us in the virtual world as well as help us monitor
operations remotely. In 2022, manufacturers are continuing to grow their strengths in
artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, and machine learning.
As virtual reality becomes a more significant part of day-to-day operations, workers will
increasingly be able to safely and remotely access equipment. This not only allows for an
increase in connection and communication, but also for an incredible amount of
flexibility. Engineers, designers, or even field service technicians from all over the world
will be able to access projects remotely to make improvements or assist customers.
Likewise, machine learning and AI will be able to safely boost overall flexibility and speed
in the manufacturing processes. Decision-making and quality control can be significantly
enhanced, saving both time and money in the long run.

Efficiency and Sustainability
Technology will inevitably speed up both production and scale. If not carefully watched,
these kinds of advancements can lead to a consequential amount of stress on the
environment. According to Statista*, the UK’s manufacturing industry has produced
over 81 million metric tons of carbon emissions. Although these numbers are going down
(and are significantly lower than the levels in 1990), manufacturers will need to work hard
to leave high emissions and bad practices in the past.
Consumers are increasingly looking out for companies that are aware of their social and
environmental responsibilities. Any reliance on fossil fuels, excessive waste, and
overproduction will weigh your industry down and keep it from success in the long run.
Industry trends are looking towards the future and focusing on circular economies and
production models that prioritize sustainability and efficiency at every stage of
production. As manufacturers begin to utilise recycling, refurbishing, waste-reduction
and remanufacturing, they will be able to save a significant amount of money while also
protecting the environment.

Dark Factories
This quickly growing trend has already been a reality since the early 2000s. These
“lights-out factories” involve fully automated manufacturing that requires no human
presence. In this way, lights, ventilation, and heating can all be shut off during production
and machines can work in the dark. As CNC machining and CAM software has advanced,
the possibility of running dark factories has become more accessible for the everyday
manufacturer and the trend is quickly growing all over the world.
There are many advantages to producing and manufacturing through this method. For
example, light-out factories are able to significantly boost productivity and lower overall
costs. Labour costs are knocked down by utilizing robotic workers, and these types of
workers can often better meet increasing production demands. They also require less
space and can work in more compact spaces. Dark factories are also saving money and
energy by conserving electricity and gas that would have otherwise been used on
climate control.
However, entirely smart factories are difficult to have. In reality, factories that are
capable of running dark rarely will rarely utilise the function full-time. It’s also possible
that manufacturing with the “lights-out” may simply be incompatible with a specific
type of industry. With CNC machining, it is often necessary for human workers to be
available to set up tombstones and remove completed parts. That being said, technology
is quickly advancing, and completely automated factories will soon be accessible in
almost any industry.

By Luke Smoothy, Director and Founder of Get It Made Ltd


For further information on anything in this article, the team at Get It Made can be
contacted via the contact page here: https://get-it-made.co.uk/contact/