The global manufacturing sector is going through a transformative period, as technological, economic and geopolitical developments require industry leaders to recalibrate their strategies in a changing environment.
However, the industry is still growing strongly. It now accounts for around 16% of GDP and 14% of employment across the global economy. It still holds immense value for both developed and developing economies, by providing a pathway to rising incomes and living standards in the former and a source of innovation and competitiveness for the latter.
While this period of flux in the manufacturing industry will throw up new challenges, it will also create new opportunities for those with the foresight to see these changes coming. This is even more pronounced in the case of China, which is by far the industry leader in terms of manufacturing output.
With that in mind, here are five major trends to watch out for in 2018 in the Chinese manufacturing sector.
The Rise of 3D Printing
Huge developments in 3D printing technology have already revolutionized the prototyping process in manufacturing by slashing turnaround times from design to physical prototype, allowing designers an unprecedented degree of finesse in the product development process.
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the full potential of 3D printing is concerned. Products that previously required multiple pieces or parts can now be manufactured as one piece using these new techniques, entirely eliminating additional processes like welding and screwing.
As an additive process that only uses the specific amount of material required, 3D printing also minimizes manufacturing waste compared to existing subtractive techniques.
These saving of time, materials and money are alluring for manufacturers whose margins are growing ever-thinner in a highly competitive landscape. Thus far, the barrier to mass adoption of 3D printing has been the still high cost of the technology. However, with advancements coming thick and fast, 2018 could be the year that 3D printing finally goes mainstream.
Developments in sensor technology and data analysis techniques are enabling greater degrees of automation than ever before in mass production. This trend is also being driven by economic forces. With Chinese labor costs slowly but steadily on the rise, manufacturers are increasingly turning to automation in order to lower labor costs while maintaining quality.
As robotics and computer simulation techniques play a greater role in the production process, demand for highly skilled workers to manage these systems will also go up. Fortunately, Chinese universities are producing record numbers of graduates that are primed to fill these new highly technical roles.
New Technologies for Enhanced Collaboration
New technologies in the fields of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are enabling companies to create and test scenarios in the virtual world and visualize the results. These technologies also enable designers, engineers and manufacturers from all over the world collaborate closer than ever before by using these virtual technologies. As this trend continues to grow, manufacturing even complex products internationally will become easier and more cost-effective.
Growth in High-Tech Manufacturing
In recent years, high-tech manufacturing in China has been growing a fast clip. This development goes hand-in-hand with the trends identified above. In fact, all these trends seem to be feeding off each other and in turn fueling each other as well, creating a feedback loop driven by technology and economics.
As Chinese factories become more automated and employ more technically skilled workers, we are likely to see the growth in high-tech manufacturing intensify in the coming years as China looks to cement its dominance in this sector.
Shift Towards Domestic Consumption
China’s economic boom has been fueled by the export-led manufacturing industry. However, an increasingly prosperous Chinese population has started flexing its financial muscles and consumption is on the rise in China, with 65% of the economic growth in 2016 coming from consumption. As this trend grows, manufacturers are likely to see growth opportunities by being able to sell their products in China’s massive domestic market in addition to the export markets they have been operating in.
At MorphoMFG we have had a first-hand view of these ongoing changes in the manufacturing industry, both in China and worldwide. We have learned to embrace change as a default setting in our industry and revel in the challenges (and opportunities!) that it throws up. Reach out today to find out how we can help you navigate the manufacturing process and bring your dream product to life.