After a quarter century of decline, the future is looking bright for US manufacturers, according to a collaborative research effort between IndustryWeek Custom Research and Kronos Incorporated titled The Future of Manufacturing: 2020 and Beyond. In its survey of senior executives and managers, Kronos found that “…manufacturing leaders are overwhelmingly positive about their business growth prospects. Nine out of ten expect revenues to grow, and more than half expect revenues to grow 5% or more per year over the next five years.”
Clearly, that’s good news, especially when the industry is still somewhat saddled by a reputation for resistance to innovation and reluctance to adopt new technologies. Contrary to that outdated perception, US manufacturers are now reaching all-time highs in output at the same time unemployment is at an eight-year low. Even as manufacturing becomes increasingly automated, sophisticated and efficient, rapid growth always brings challenges. In fact, according to survey respondents, the greatest foreseeable challenges are:
- market volatility
- rising material costs
- price reduction pressures
- increasing labor costs.
Of course, in a global economy made even more uncertain by politics and posturing, it remains to be seen how – and how well –various industries and manufacturers will meet these challenges.
What’s the key to success? Asked about their priorities, manufacturing leaders shared a common view. “To achieve their growth targets, manufacturers are investing in areas that will improve productivity and speed responsiveness,” the survey found.
In other words, the key is agility.
Agile manufacturers are best positioned to anticipate, address and adapt quickly to market challenges in ways that help them gain and keep the competitive advantage. For example, when customization is high in an assembly operation, storing additional SKUs in the assembly area means pickers don’t have to travel to find the right part, saving time and effort and improving accuracy. Implementing this specialized, yet flexible, solution accomplishes more that simply reducing search time: It significantly improves daily output, reduces labor costs, reduces pick errors, and speeds fulfillment.
In times of fast growth, it’s sometimes hard to focus on operations at the granular level, and it’s easy to underestimate how incremental changes can lead to important gains in productivity. For manufacturers facing the challenges that come with growth, it pays to keep a close eye on ways to improve speed and agility.
UNEX solutions for manufacturing operations and assembly lines include UNEX Work Cells, which help keep parts and items in order and close at hand so workers can quickly and easily grab the next part for the sub-assembly, resulting in faster fulfillment rates and greater efficiency and productivity for US manufacturers. Contact your Pickologist today to discover visionary solutions to help you meet your operational challenges.