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Smart manufacturing: Growing, but how fast?

The world smart manufacturing market is forecast to “grow by $320 billion” over the next six years, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.5 percent, according to a new report published by market analysis firm Global Industry Analysts on Researchandmarkets.com.

Smart manufacturing systems are those that are integrated and collaborative and use data analysis to respond in real time to meet changing demands and conditions in a factory, the supply chain, and/or customer needs.

Over time, this will allow factories to move from a passive/reactive model to a predictive one that can anticipate trends with ever-greater accuracy, based on increasing amounts of data, more granular analysis, and the application of artificial intelligence.

In this way, smart manufacturing is expected to help balance supply with demand, enhance product design, optimise manufacturing efficiency, and significantly reduce waste, in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report, Smart Manufacturing – Market Analysis, Trends, and Forecasts, predicts that the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) segment alone could grow at 9.5 percent, to reach over $16.1 billion by 2025.

US smart manufacturing will maintain its 14.6% growth momentum over the forecast period, says the report, while the world’s second largest economy, China, has a sector with the potential to grow at 13.2 percent.

However, the figures are challenged by a different report on the same sector published by India-based analyst company, Mordor Intelligence. According to that document, the global smart manufacturing market was worth $169.4 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.4 percent over the next five years to reach a total value of $271.1 billion.

From this second report’s perspective, the largest – and the fastest growing – market is Asia Pacific. Overall, the Aerospace and Defence sector is the largest single adopter of smart manufacturing techniques, with 62 percent of companies engaged in them, versus Automotive (50 percent), Energy & Utilities (42 percent), Consumer Goods (40 percent), and Life Sciences & Pharmaceuticals (37 percent).

The prime concern of the second-placed Automotive industry is the length of a project, explains the Mordor report. Hence, quick return-on-investment projects combined with low-cost automation and cost innovations are helping manufacturers to improve their competitiveness via improved productivity.

In this sector, value streams are expected to become more agile through adaptive manufacturing and extensive utilisation of 3D-printing, continues the report. These value streams are expected to become more software-based.

The US has one of largest automotive markets in the world, which is home to well over a dozen major car manufacturers. The formation of the cross-sector Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) is helping US companies invest in emerging technologies, in partnership with universities and the federal government.

“This has aided the country to substantially gain a competitive edge in the global economy,” says the report. “The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) consists of developing regional hubs, which will be involved in developing and adopting cutting-edge manufacturing technologies for making innovative products, to be implemented in the manufacturing sector.

“The development of next-generation, energy-efficient, high-power electronic chips and devices (by making wide-bandgap semiconductor technologies, which are expected to be cost-competitive with current silicon-based power electronics during the forecast period) is expected to aid in fostering the growth of the market.”

The contrasting perspectives offered by these two reports (ironically) reveal the difficulty in obtaining reliable and consistent data for smart manufacturing, at least in terms of investment and growth.

However, one thing is clear: the smart money is on making traditional processes more intelligent, shifting decision-making from a passive and reactive role to a more active one that can anticipate needs.

  • Earlier this year, the UK government launched a £30 million competition for new technologies to boost productivity and agility in the UK’s manufacturing sector.

The aim is to support the development of a broad range of industrial technologies, including sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, analytics, and virtual reality (VR).

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced the competition in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). It forms part of the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge.