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Tracking the Trends From 2018 and Beyond

Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering

I get to observe, read about or write on manufacturing trends nearly every day. Around this time of year (mid-December), lots of manufacturing Top 10 Trends lists are published. I was curious about how many of these trends SME Media has covered in the last year and plans to cover in 2019. Since I have to pack this into a small space, I’ve focused on five trends.

Workforce Diversity: With the Skills Gap growing, manufacturers must reach out to groups underrepresented in the workforce, such as women and minorities. The Nov. 2018 ME included a column from Base 11, a non-profit that is doing exactly that. It recruits and trains women and ethnic minorities, among others, for manufacturing jobs at its Base 11 Innovation Centers. Also, our 30 Under 30 feature in July introduced a diverse group of young professionals.


Digitization: Whether it is creating a digital twin of the manufacturing process, using digital tool and machine libraries, installing digital tool management systems, or building out Industry 4.0, manufacturers are improving their processes with digitization. We covered this with features on data analysis in the Feb. ME, digital tool data storage/management in both of our 2018 Tooling and Workholding Special Issues, a Viewpoints column in August on how Industry 4.0 is shrinking lead times, and a column in December on digitization for machine builders.

The digital factory was the focus of the March issue of our sister magazine, Smart Manufacturing. In 2019, look for a May feature on Industry 4.0 in ME, and features in Smart on sensors (March) and data management (Nov.).

Automation/Robotics: These systems combat the Skills Gap and improve manufacturing. We published lots on them in 2018: features on five-axis automation in the Feb. ME, lights-out moldmaking in May, automating verticals in June, job shop automation and IIoT-based automation in July, collaborative robotics in September, and a case study on robotic welding in December. Smart covered six-axis robotics in May.

In 2019, the March ME focuses on automation and the November Smart focuses on robotics/automation.

Cybersecurity: Cyber threats and attacks happen every day (ask hotel operator Starwood about the latest). As a result, manufacturers must beef up their cyber defense strategies. We beefed up our coverage in 2018: a column by UL in the May Smart, a feature on security tools for small-to-medium manufacturers in the Dec. ME, as well as a column in the same issue on securing the edge of the network. Next year, read our cybersecurity feature in the Aug. ME, and a feature on cyber defense in the May Smart.

Blockchain: Unless you bought cryptocurrency, you probably (like me) hadn’t heard about blockchain until last year. Now it’s everywhere. In the May 2019 Smart, read about the “ledger of ledgers” role in manufacturing.

So, if you need to track the trends, keep reading our great journalists, in print and online.

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