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2016 Forecast: Tepid Growth and a Focus on Technology

The market research firm, Frost & Sullivan has released their 2016 manufacturing projections and the trends projected are less than hopeful. While the economy is being called into question and the stock markets continue to drop around the world, many experts are not overly enthusiastic. This is also true of the Texas based consulting firm who seem to only find hope in the technological advancements.

While they are reporting that government experts and economists alike are predicting respectable U.S. industrial growth. With U.S. projections for growth at 2.6%, China and India fare slightly better with 6% and 8%, respectively, these are some of the worst growth forecasts since the crisis of ’08. The situation worsens when dealing with the wild card scenarios. Factors such as terrorism and cyber-attacks have the ability to wreak havoc on industrial growth and could very well make low numbers even worse. Europe could stand to suffer the most from this type of unseen situation with the decisive factor relying on what happens with the migrant crisis.

The consulting firm did point out the fact that our current presidential side show aka election is about to take center stage. The issue here being that, any manufacturing woes will be marginalized in the court of public opinion to make way for talking points that can be more easily spun politically. You can be sure these hot topic issues such as immigration, healthcare, gun laws, etc. will be debated at every waking moment until Election Day in November without much more than a passing nod to manufacturing. Not that it would matter either way as Frost & Sullivan also point out that none of the candidates currently polling north of zero have any knowledge or place any real emphasis on manufacturing anyway.

The market research company does however make the case for serious technological advancement in the coming year. Citing the advances in Industry 4.0 the report claims, “2016 will be the year when the much-vaunted theories behind Manufacturing/Industry 4.0 that have been developed over the last few years move into real life practice…” This proposes that the advanced practices in automation and process control are ready to move into the functional stage. Also, companies that set the bar and lead the way will map the framework toward successful implementation of these advances by later adopters.

While many of these advances will be exclusive to massive corporations, the report goes on to state that small and medium sized manufacturers will move toward embracing the advanced technology of Industry 4.0. With the cost saving benefits of advanced technologies, ever decreasing costs of hardware such as robots, and the pressures these measures bring in the form of lower priced competition, the little guys have to adapt to in order to survive.

In a less astonishing technology section of the report, particularly if you work in the plastics industry, 3D printing is discussed. The market research firm explains how further advancement to the processes will challenge traditional production. While we all know this to be true regarding prototype and one-off parts, the feasibility of mass production is still quite safe in traditional manufacturing. However, there is a salient point made concerning consumer use of 3D printing. I find this factor to be very significant due to the price drop recently of user friendly desktop machines. These 3D printers are quite capable and easy to use and more importantly, cheap. Other than the consumer aspect, it’s more of the same regarding 3D printing.

This report is a type of affirmation to many who have felt manufacturing slipping even while being told that the economy is improving. The plastics industry will see some improvements in the forms of Internet of Things (IoT) measures, robotics, and interconnectivity measures, but this growth will be slow and lumbering as the processes are adopted and streamlined. In the meantime, it is up to us to strive for improvements and advancements that can aid in our success even in the lean times.


Title: Manufacturing Trends to Watch in 2016 Author: David Brousell, Frost & Sullivan

Title: Frost & Sullivan's manufacturing trends to watch in 2016, and what they mean for the plastics industry Author: Clare Goldsberry, Plastics Today


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