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What Will Manufacturing Look Like in 2030?

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Given the many uncertainties brought about by COVID-19, supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and more, it might seem as though what happens in the coming decade is anyone’s guess. But on closer examination, there are signposts signaling some of what’s to come—and a closer look at them can help manufacturers plan for the coming years.

At the recent “Manufacturing in 2030: The Shape of Things to Come” event hosted by the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council, in-person and virtual attendees heard from experts, examined trends, explored technologies and discussed upcoming challenges. The goal: to look into the future of manufacturing.

“We can’t be certain about what tomorrow will bring, let alone what might be in 2030,” said MLC Co-Founder David Brousell in his opening remarks. However, “we can project or extrapolate based on current trends and conditions, with a reasonable amount of probability, what the shape of manufacturing will look like in 10 years’ time.”

Why Manufacturing in 2030: Everything in manufacturing is changing, driven by technologies capable of giving decision makers more information than ever before. Prior to the pandemic, companies were already making changes to their organizational structures, shifting from hierarchical models to more collaborative means of organizing people and processes. COVID-19 has only accelerated this change.

Brousell explained: “All around us, conventional notions of what can be accomplished in production … are being reimagined.”

Challenges and opportunities: Upcoming challenges discussed included continued global supply chain disruptions, climate change and the redefinition of the human–machine relationship. Speakers examined the technological, organizational and leadership characteristics that can set manufacturers apart and provide them with a competitive advantage.

What’s next: The MLC will soon launch its yearlong “Manufacturing in 2030” project, which will help manufacturers explore, understand and plan for the future of the manufacturing industry in the next decade.

Said Brousell: “If we do things right in the next 10 years, we have the opportunity to create the greatest engine of manufacturing production humankind has ever seen.”

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