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Key Manufacturing Technology Trends to Watch

Mark Flynn
Operations technology
We stand at the precipice of a technological revolution, one that is fundamentally reshaping how we live, work, and do business. This transformation has deeply penetrated the manufacturing landscape, transforming it into a breeding ground for innovation. In the face of fierce competition and ever-evolving market dynamics, it is imperative for SMEs to leverage this wave of technology to ensure business continuity, efficiency, and growth.

Despite the promising potential of this digital revolution, many tech-driven initiatives often fall short of delivering their anticipated benefits. Deloitte's report reveals a sobering fact that “up to 70% of digital transformation projects fail” and organisations often spend around three years building the necessary foundations before they can start actively competing in the digital arena.

With such daunting statistics, you might ask, why should we even attempt this transformative journey? Firstly, those businesses that successfully navigate digital transformation are reaping considerable rewards. A study by Capgemini shows that such enterprises have witnessed a "26% increase in profit" compared to their less digitalised competitors.

Secondly, the costs and complexities associated with deploying technology are rapidly decreasing, thanks to advancements like Cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) technology. These innovations minimize the need for substantial capital expenditure and protracted installation times, thus streamlining the digital transformation process.

And if these reasons aren't persuasive enough, consider the risk of your business being left behind in the digital race. The threat of technological disruption should be a clarion call to action.

In this blog, we will shed light on key technological trends and offer practical tips on how to effectively integrate these technologies into your operations. Regardless of whether you're a small business owner or the Managing Director of a large enterprise, we aim to provide essential insights to help you navigate the intricate labyrinth of digital transformation.

How Things Are Changing

There are several key technologies that have the potential to create a significant impact on the manufacturing sector:

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI's potential in manufacturing extends beyond imagination. Predictive maintenance, improved quality control, and more efficient supply chain management are just the tip of the iceberg. As a McKinsey report pointed out, AI could lead to a 20%-50% reduction in forecasting errors.
  2. Robotics: Robots, known for their precision and efficiency, have become a mainstay in modern factories. They eliminate human error, increase productivity, and can even operate in hazardous environments. Take, for instance, Kuka Robotics, whose robots have significantly improved efficiency and safety on the production floor.
  3. 3D Printing: 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, allows for faster and cheaper prototyping, reduced waste, and the possibility of on-demand production. It's not just a tool for large enterprises - SMEs like Andiamo have used it to reduce the wiat time for orthotics from weeks to just a few days.
  4. Internet of Things (IoT): IoT devices can collect and analyse data in real-time, enhancing process optimisation, energy management, and predictive maintenance. According to a study by PWC, manufacturing firms estimate an average increase of 19% in operational efficiency over the next five years due to the IoT.

While these technologies are reshaping the industry, SMEs must tread carefully to reap their full benefits.

Key Insights To Be Aware Of

As Bill Gates wisely put, "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten." Here are some crucial insights that SME manufacturers should keep in mind while planning their technology roadmap:

  1. Current Systems Assessment: Knowing where you stand today is the first step towards charting your future. Evaluate your existing systems and processes before you plan any technology upgrades.
  2. Importance of a Solid Foundation: Merely jumping on the technology bandwagon isn't enough. You must have the right foundation in place, from robust infrastructure to strong data management practices and secure networks, to ensure the new technologies can perform optimally.
  3. Digital Skills Development: "The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it," said . Your team should have the necessary skills to make the best use of the technology you adopt.
  4. Strategic Technology Adoption: Not every trend will be a perfect fit for your business. Be strategic in your technology investments, aligning them with your business goals and specific needs.
  5. Importance of Agility: Change is the only constant in the technology world. Stay agile, adapt swiftly, and be ready to pivot your strategy as needed.

A Method for Change

Adopting new technology is not a one-time activity, but a journey. And like all journeys, it requires careful planning and execution:

  1. Needs Assessment: Clearly define your objectives. What is the pain point that you're trying to address? This will guide your technology investment decisions.
  2. Research: Understand which technologies can help you meet those needs. Don't hesitate to seek expert advice.
  3. Implementation Plan: Once you have decided on the technology, lay out a detailed implementation plan.
  4. Training & Communication: Ensure your team is ready to handle the new technology. Training and development should be an ongoing process. You should make clear that technology is a tool to be used to enhance the efficiency of the human workforce, not to replace it.

Action Steps

To get started on your technology transformation journey, follow these steps:

  1. Conduct a Technology Audit: Take stock of your existing technology infrastructure. Identify what works well and what needs to improve. Try using our Digital Scorecard to help you establish your Benchmark.
  2. Set Achievable Goals: Clearly define what you hope to achieve through technology adoption. Useful categorisation includes Customer Experience, Operational Excellence and Becoming A Data Driven business.
  3. Create a Technology Roadmap: Outline the steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Make it pragmatic based on your own internal capacity to deliver. You are looking for incremental change, not a big bang.
  4. Invest in Employee Training: Allocate resources for training your staff in the new technologies. Consider appointing transformation champions across the business who can help to embed the new technology.

Prepare for Setbacks

Just as with any significant organisational change, embarking on a journey of digital transformation is bound to experience some bumps along the road. While we strive for a seamless transition, the reality often involves dealing with technical glitches, resistance from employees, budget overruns, and problems integrating new technology with existing systems. Here's how to anticipate and mitigate these risks:

  1. Technical Glitches: Even with the best technology and the most thorough testing, technical issues can and will arise. To mitigate this, have a robust technology partner ready to resolve these glitches promptly. Furthermore, a well-documented disaster recovery and business continuity plan can provide guidelines for dealing with major technical issues that could disrupt business operations.
  2. Implement a systematic approach to testing and quality assurance before going live with new systems or software. Additionally, ensure you have dedicated IT support readily available to manage and rectify issues as they arise.
  3. Resistance from Employees: Change can be uncomfortable, and the introduction of new digital tools and workflows may meet with resistance from staff members who are accustomed to doing things a certain way.
  4. A strong change management strategy is crucial. This includes clear and consistent communication about the benefits of the change, how it will impact employees, and the support and training that will be provided. Foster an open dialogue where employees' concerns can be heard and addressed.
  5. Budget Overruns: Digital transformation is an investment, and costs can easily spiral out of control without careful management.
  6. Good project management is key here. Having a clear plan with set milestones, regularly monitoring progress against these milestones, and maintaining a tight control on the budget can help prevent overruns. Also, consider working with a fixed-cost provider to help ensure that costs remain within the set boundaries.
  7. Problems Integrating New Technology with Existing Systems: Integrating new technology can be tricky, particularly if you’re trying to fit it in with legacy systems.
  8. Seek the help of experienced professionals who can ensure the interoperability of new and existing systems. If you're working with external technology vendors, involve them in the process—they have the experience and expertise to foresee potential integration issues and advise on best practices. Choose technology products that focus on supporting a number of integrations.

Remember, setbacks are a natural part of any transformation process. Rather than viewing them as failures, they should be seen as opportunities for learning and refinement. Adopt a culture of agility and resilience, and maintain an unwavering focus on your long-term digital transformation goals.


The manufacturing sector stands at the cusp of a digital revolution. SMEs that are ready to embrace technology can tap into unprecedented opportunities for efficiency, growth, and competitive advantage. The journey might seem challenging, but with careful planning, strategic investment, and an agile mindset, SMEs can successfully navigate their path to digital transformation. So, are you ready to make the leap into the future? Leave a comment below or reach out to us for a consultation.