Man jumping over hurdle
Manufacturing is in a constant state of transformation. To capture insights into the year’s manufacturing outlook, accounting firm Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC and the Leading Edge Alliance conducted the 2017 National Manufacturing Outlook and Insights survey of more than 250 U.S. manufacturing executives.
The results show that a majority of manufacturers expect revenue to grow in 2017. However, there are a handful of challenges that could hinder this growth. The survey has identified the following seven barriers:

1) Top priorities
2) Research & Development investment
3) Capital expenditures
4) Costs
5) Mergers & Acquisitions
6) Talent
7) Technology

Of the seven, technology and talent stand out as particularly complex.  The labor issue, including a shortage of qualified workers, is something the industry has been dealing with for years. 

At the same time, evolving technologies that make up the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Smart Manufacturing initiatives are disrupting the foundation of how manufacturers operate.  

Taking on the Talent Shortage

Three of the top four survey responses were related to the talent shortage, and 47 percent of surveyed individuals selected ‘lack of qualified workers’ as a major barrier to growth. There are two issues to consider here: one is that the pipeline of new workers entering manufacturing jobs is drying up. This leaves manufacturers without appropriately skilled workers to fill job positions. 

The second issue is the impact that technology is having on current employees. The IIoT emphasizes mobility, big data, cloud computing, security, and network programmability. But as these technologies evolve, so do the job skills required to implement them. Manufacturers are turning to training and re-skilling opportunities to help prepare their employees for the IIoT’s exponential growth. Industrial IP Advantage’s e-learning courses are designed for just that reason: to help technicians and engineers to take advantage of the new models enabled by Ethernet and IP networking. 

Evolving Technology

New solutions are bringing greater connectivity and productivity across the industry. But the current pace of change presents substantial challenges for the future. The survey predicts that for the year ahead, the most successful operations must utilize technology in a calculated way or risk falling behind to competitors. 

With standard Ethernet and IP technologies entering industrial operations, the convergence of IT and OT networks is a key driver to enable emerging technologies. What we’ll continue to see this year and beyond are companies converging IT and manufacturing networks to optimize decision making and keep operations efficient and productive. For more on how network convergence is impacting the future of manufacturing, watch this webinar from Automation.com

Manufacturing growth in 2017 will be dependent on strategic decision making. From technology to talent, each barrier has avenues to success, depending on whether companies will address problems proactively. For analysis on the other five barriers and strategies, view the full report here.