At Optimation Technology we care deeply about manufacturing in the USA. It is our passion to grow the U.S. manufacturing base and increase manufacturing employment. We served a broad cross section of industries and provide automation, process optimization and customized manufacturing equipment for our clients. 2015 was a difficult year for many U.S. manufacturers. Manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level in more than six years.
Economists are expecting 2016 to be a much better year. The fundamentals should enable a rebound in the coming months with anticipated growth of 2.6 percent in 2016. This will include new infusions of capital spending to improve manufacturing technology, IT and productivity. This capital revitalization will include implementation of new technologies with advancements developed for data collection, communications and the Internet of Things.
“Just in time manufacturing” was a hallmark in the 90s but it is taking on greater meaning as we enter 2016. Supply chain advances are allowing tighter control and further reduction of inventory. With this come lower costs enabled by automation and more refined robots and even drones for the logistics of moving and shipping purchases to buyers.
Advances in software, data and connectivity are giving rise to the digital factory that should help create a competitive advantage for U.S. companies. Manufacturing operations are becoming more adaptive, enabling manufacturers to modify processes more quickly. By permitting innovation through industrial decision making software, they can provide real-time information for the skilled and trained workforce operating the digital factory.
And of course the Internet of Things (IoT) is the backbone of much of the technological change taking place. IoT continues to evolve at a rapid rate. Some projections say that within two years 90M people will live in smart homes. By 2020 they say there will be 50B connected devices. These changes will impact not only smart homes but also smart factories. Devices in the new digital factory will include more capability and operational intelligence than those used previously. There will be greater use of wireless communications and greater use of RF tagging to track, identify and inventory items.
Another technology that is finally coming of age from the cost perspective is additive manufacturing using 3D printing processes. There are a variety of techniques that include technologies such as Laser Sintering, Stereo-Lithography and Fused Deposition Modeling. Originally this was used for rapid prototyping, but the cost was too high for production use. Now that costs have come in line, these technologies are in place in the manufacturing line. Additive manufacturing is used to fabricate parts for automotive, consumer products, business machines and medical devices. Revenue from additive manufacturing is expected to reach over $3 billion within two years.
Those of us working in advanced manufacturing can all be excited about 2016. Increases in manufacturing productivity, advances in technology and an increase in the number of well-paid manufacturing jobs are all achievements we hope to celebrate.