Advanced new materials and narrowing gaps in international labour costs will create a level playing field for innovation.
By 2050, we see the cost of energy and water having a significant impact on the manufacturing industry in Ireland. Businesses will need to think smartly about how they generate, use and recover these resources.
Trend #1 | Hyper-efficient business models
Manufacturing businesses will need to be increasingly adaptive to prosper, thinking harder about how, where and what they make.
Relocating around customers and resources
Businesses will need to think about resource use, consumption and transport costs. Manufacturers will have to decide whether to be closer to raw materials to guarantee supply, or closer to customers to meet demand.
Adaptable production lines
Factories will increasingly be able to create a range of different products by physically reconfiguring to meet changing demand.
Selling benefits, not products
A circular economy requires keeping resources in use for as long as possible, before deconstructing and re-engineering them to create new products. Today, manufacturers only monitor products for the warranty period. In the future, more manufacturers will retain ownership and responsibility for their products and their ongoing performance. Customers will buy the benefits, not the product.
Trend #2 | New generation materials
Today’s technologies are limited by old materials. Future materials will be lighter, stronger and greener, providing new opportunities for innovation.
The need for greener products that are cheap, strong and plentiful will lead to new perspectives on naturally sourced materials. Manufacturing cars uses significant resources, expensive tooling and excessive energy.
Research and development will lead to more lightweight yet durable materials, providing manufacturers with the opportunity to produce structures using less material and energy.
Waste as a tradeable asset
The concept of waste will be radically different in 2050. Manufacturers will see by-products as something of value that they can sell to other businesses or exchange for credit.
Trend #3 | Rise of robotics
Industrial robots are on the verge of revolutionising manufacturing. As they become smarter, faster and cheaper, they’ll be called upon to do even more.
A new era of efficiency
As humans move off the production lines and into new engineering roles, factories will be able to operate longer, faster, more safely and with less waste – making way for greater productivity and quality assurance.
Through the Internet of Things (IoT), data capture will greatly benefit the industry. Advanced analytics platforms will enable manufacturers to evaluate big data sourced from connected robotics to improve processes. Sensors will transmit data to alert and initiate preventative maintenance and adjust production speeds according to the market.
Bringing it back home
The advancement of robotics may reinvigorate manufacturing in Ireland, making local production more cost-effective than importing. Robotics developments will level the playing field and reduce the advantage enjoyed by China and other low-cost markets.