American Manufacturing: How Technology Has Changed the Industry

American manufacturing is experiencing vast changes, primarily due to emerging technological developments. Pundits have claimed that American manufacturing is in a slump, but they couldn’t be more wrong – The National Association of Manufacturers reports that manufacturers contribute $2.09 trillion dollars to the American economy, a number that has been on a steady rise since 2009. With American manufacturing in something of a new renaissance, here is a look at the new technological trends that are driving the industry growth.

The SMAC Model

There are four major technologies that manufacturers are embracing in the new renaissance – Social, Media, Analytic, and Cloud technologies. As computing reaches the far corners of the earth, businesses have a tremendous amount of data to sort through in terms of demographics, advertising, and more. Manufacturing businesses are no different, and the “SMAC Stack” of technologies are helping manufacturing leap into the modern business arena. Cognizant points out that by 2020, there will be as many as 100 billion computing devices in the world, all shopping, surfing and creating analytic data that needs to be analyzed to spot trends and markets that manufacturers can take advantage of. As manufacturers learn more about their end users, they become more capable of satisfying the demands of market directly.

Long held ideas about value chains collapse under the weight of the virtual markets that can be created using these four technologies. Sites like AliBaba put consumers directly in contact with manufacturers from around the world and eliminate much of the need for middlemen and retailers, and the modern manufacturer can sell his services and products directly to whoever wants them. In this way, manufacturing in America has become a “consumerized” industry and it’s thanks to the technological advancements that have bridged the gap between manufacturer and end-user. As this gap narrows, manufacturing in American stands to become an industry that dominates the global market once more.

The Factory Floor

The technological revolution in manufacturing isn’t just in data, it’s happening right on the factory floor. Automation has reached a new level of precision thanks to American manufacturing’s renewed focus on engineering and technological education. By redefining what a career in manufacturing means to include R&D work and innovation, automation has changed the factory floor into robots and tech-professionals.

There are, of course, still manufacturing employees working the machines, and modern robotics makes it easier and safer than ever. Advanced automation technology now uses 360-degree sensors on robotics that operate on the manufacturing floor, allowing them to operate with more dexterity and awareness of nearby human workers on a factory’s production lines,

The 3D printing revolution has also created a new market for manufacturers. 3D printing allows manufacturers to offer models directly to consumers and allow them to print at home many of the small replacement parts for products, freeing up factory production lines and allowing a sort of “print-on-demand” model to emerge. Companies from every corner of the manufacturing world have wholeheartedly embraced the possibilities of 3D printing on the factory floor. Since 3D printing technology has been designed from the ground up to seamlessly allow users to print from a variety of devices, workers on a manufacturer’s factory floor can operate printers from the press of a button on a tablet device, which shrinks the operational footprint of a company by a tremendous amount.