During the lean years of industrial production in 2016 and 2017, experts wondered aloud whether US manufacturing trends would ever show signs of hope again. In 2018 and the first half of 2019, manufacturing has continued to recover and grow from the Great Recession with some impressive growth.
Before the 2016 presidential election, most economic forecasters were expecting that year's trends to continue: baby steps in overall growth, struggling commodity markets, and a successful auto market. However, growth in metal fabrication and manufacturing is said to keep a steady pace at the national level for 2019’s U.S. GDP — between 2.7 and 3.4%.
There have been countless predictions for what's ahead in the manufacturing industry. And it seems that manufacturers as a whole are optimistic.
It's important for manufacturers to not only adapt to trends in 2019, but for years to come. And we're sure that these trends will be around for a decade, at least:
US Manufacturing Trends in 2019
1. 3D Printing
3D printing is a rapid prototyping process that is extremely cost-effective for manufacturers. It allows them to test and troubleshoot their products quickly and efficiently. Not only that, manufacturers can produce items on demand with 3D printing instead of waiting for them to be made in the warehouse.
3D printing is now a huge part of additive manufacturing, which makes it overall more faster and capable. You can even mix different metals and materials in one single job.
The capabilities of 3D printing will only continue to expand in years to come. But, it's definitely something to look out for in the manufacturing world of 2019.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical devices and other items embedded with electronics, software, connectivity, etc. that allows these "things" to connect and share data. This sharing creates more direct integration of the physical world into computer systems. In manufacturing, we sometimes use the extended term Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
The part where you care?
- Economic benefits
- A more efficient factory
- Less human labor necessary
Roughly 63% of manufacturers believe that applying IoT to products will increase profitability over the next five years and are set to invest $267 billion in IoT by 2020.
Despite IoT's success, industrial manufacturers (a typically old-school group of thinkers) are still figuring out how IIoT can improve business models and customer satisfaction. The ones that do will see material cost savings, decreased overall maintenance costs, less equipment downtime, and less maintenance planning time.
3. Artificial INtelligence
Another big factor in the next industrial revolution? Artificial intelligence.
In 2019, artificial intelligence is basically everywhere. In the near future, experts say that manufacturing facilities will evolve into one integrated engine that will watch over everything and provide valuable data and insights.
Artificial intelligence comes in different forms, such as:
- Virtual reality
There have been concerns that in upcoming years artificial intelligence will replace human workers. However in 2019, increases in technology in the manufacturing industry will be known to improve overall growth and efficiency.
The use of technology to incorporate in the operations process will only allow manufacturers to more heavily focus on their actual product innovation.
Bringing operations back to U.S. shores has become increasingly popular among manufacturers.
There are multiple reasons for this:
- Increasing transportation costs
- Rising economies in offshoring countries
- Lacking infrastructure can't support complex manufacturing operations
Because of this, manufacturers are making more of an effort to make their products and components in the USA in 2019.
Take a look at some of the major cons of offshoring by clicking below:
5. the generation of leadership
It may seem that all eyes have been on the millennial generation as they prepare to take over leadership roles across all industries. However, it's Generation Z that manufacturers will need to keep an eye on for employment opportunities.
This exponential generation has never seen a world without smartphones, the internet, and artificial reality. Many of them are just now entering college or technology schools. Their knowledge and capabilities when it comes to technology will be a target for manufacturers looking for employees.
Their skill sets and 21st-century leadership styles will be something to look out for not only in 2020, but in the decade to come as well.
It’s Up to the Manufacturers
Last we saw, metal fabrication ranks third in total manufacturing jobs in the United States, behind only transportation and food, according to IndustryWeek. That’s a good thing.
It’s now up to the manufacturing sector to keep the U.S. economy steady by growing its exports and reinvesting revenue growth from overseas back into America.
“Market forces alone are unlikely to achieve the needed change,” says a report by MForesight urging the U.S. to invest in emerging manufacturing tech. “They have not so far. ... Only government can overcome this market failure to ensure that the United States remains globally competitive.”
In the end, a fabricator’s specific customer base will determine success. American providers who are diverse and carry good reputations will continue to succeed as long as the demand remains!
(Editor's note: This post was originally published July 2018 and has been recently updated.)