The manufacturing sector has been a cornerstone of global economic growth for decades. As we move further towards 2024, manufacturers face various challenges that require innovative solutions and proactive management. Here’s a closer look at four of the most pressing challenges facing manufacturers today.
1. Supply Chain Disruptions
Global events over the past few years have demonstrated the vulnerability of supply chains. From pandemics to geopolitical tensions, manufacturers are acutely aware of how sudden disruptions can cripple entire production timelines. And while the world has largely moved on from the COVID-19 crisis, it seems that economic downturns are just around the corner as the Russo-Ukrainian War rages on. Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas expects supply chain disruptions to continue until the end of 2023.
The intricacies of global supply chains mean that an interruption in one part of the world can have cascading effects elsewhere, leading to increased costs and production delays.
2. Environmental Concerns and Sustainability
UK manufacturers are under pressure to reduce their carbon footprint and achieve net zero emissions by 2030. For instance, AstraZeneca has pledged to eliminate carbon emissions from its worldwide operations by 2025 and aims to be carbon-negative throughout its full value chain by 2030.
The company’s strategy includes doubling its energy efficiency — an area where water and energy are typically the main focus. This is where innovations like NIR moisture measurement come into play. Precise moisture measurement and management can significantly impact a manufacturer’s water consumption, particularly for production lines operating around the clock.
3. Industry 4.0 Continues to Surge
Industry 4.0, often dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, has ushered in a digital transformation era for manufacturing. According to Market.us, investment in Industry 4.0 is anticipated to increase by over 500% between 2022 and 2032, growing at an annual rate of more than 20%. Manufacturing stands out as the leading sector in this adoption and is predicted to see the fastest growth during these years.
This shift brings about increased efficiency and enhanced product quality through interconnected machinery and sophisticated analytics, allowing for real-time production optimisation and consistent output. Real-time data analytics improve supply chain transparency, demand prediction, and inventory management, while IoT-enabled predictive maintenance can foresee equipment failures, minimising downtime and costs.
4. Skills Shortage
The manufacturing sector faces a dual challenge when it comes to its workforce. On one hand, there’s the “skills gap”, where the demand for skilled workers exceeds supply. This is especially pronounced in advanced manufacturing roles that require specialised training.
On the other hand, manufacturers are also contending with an ageing workforce and the need to attract younger talent. This requires a balanced approach to upskilling current employees and creating an enticing workplace for the next generation.
Nearly 57% of the manufacturers surveyed by WorldSkills UK highlight challenges in accessing a skilled workforce. While 55% face shortages in advanced manufacturing expertise, a larger proportion, 61%, report a lack of conventional manufacturing skills, including fabrication, welding, and mechanical engineering.
Bracing for the Future
The manufacturing landscape of 2024 is fraught with challenges. However, with the right strategies and an embrace of innovative technologies like NIR moisture measurement, manufacturers can navigate these challenges effectively. As the sector evolves, proactive adaptation and a forward-thinking approach will be the keys to success.