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Updated 06 Dec 2020

The changing world of manufacturing and how to adapt to it

Are you an established manufacturing business owner who is finding it challenging to compete in today’s fast-paced world? These expert insights might help raise your game.

26 May 2018  Share  0 comments  Print

All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions

Did you know that since the early 1970s, we have been consuming the planet’s resources faster than the earth has been replenishing them? This is according to research by UNIDO. The organisation also says that over the past 50 years, mass consumption of manufactured products has progressively increased – leading to more demanding manufacturing requirements and use of energy materials.

As consumer demand for manufactured goods is expected to grow, demand for fossil fuel energy and materials, and other non-renewable resources will rise amongst manufacturers. This, along with the excessive amounts of waste generated by manufacturing, will subsequently put the environment under severe pressure, UNIDO notes.

LI Yong, the director general of UNIDO believes that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to help manufacturers run more efficient operations. AI can help with achieving sustainability.

Related: The demands of the modern data centre

AI necessitates a need to move beyond manual to code

Artificial -intelligence

Sustainable manufacturing businesses are no longer factories that pump oil and smoke into the environment. Smart manufacturers are already using artificial intelligence (AI). They see that growing demand for resources, as well as a requirement to be energy-efficient or ‘green’, makes it challenging to run successful operations.

An AI system can control a factory’s lighting and cooling system learning more about its environment over time. It can learn when workers are in a particular area and add ventilation and cooling or turn off lights and power sockets in areas where it doesn’t sense workers. These aren’t big changes, but they are changes that are taking place already in the manufacturing sector.

Research by Forrester shows that using AI for data and customer-centricity can also help you respond to current and future changes in the business. Here are some of the firm’s latest insights:

Digital transformation is a necessity 

Paul Miller, a senior analyst at Forrester, says that you should take swift action in the face of digital transformation in the sector. “Strive to be more efficient in your industrial processes, but also recognise the opportunity to use digital as a way to create more sustainable and profitable customer relationships,” he adds.

Miller believes that using digital technologies, such as AI, you’ll be in a better position to align product value to evolving customer requirements (both in B2B and B2C environments).

“Big providers of industrial machinery know that they must place those machines in a digitally-enabled ecosystem, involving far closer and more regular interaction with suppliers, partners, and customers,” says Miller. This is what opens up opportunities for more collaboration.

Related: Manufacturers are exposed to cyber risks and they don’t know it

If AI is right for you, embrace it 

Industry leaders usually justify implementing automation technologies as a cost-cutting measure, but what is the real business benefit of AI for a manufacturing business? Can it cut costs like an automated welding machine would? It can, in a way. 

JP Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, says that in the age of the customer, AI’s engagement capability enables you to help clients receive automatic service or serve themselves better. “Kiosks and self-help servicesmay be good news for consumers, but the impact of AI on the manufacturing business workplace is a dramatic redundancy of various roles across sales and management teams,” he notes.

Not every company should invest in automation technologies for customer engagement or resources utilisation, though. This means it is important to assess whether your business can benefit from an AI solution.

“Think about whether your company would benefit from automation technologies. Swift action will ensure survival in a resource-depleted world filled with engagement starved customers,” he advises. 

You can adopt advanced technology into your operations, but it requires two major shifts in thinking: Abandoning any conservative mindsets in the business and clearly defining the role AI will play in your company’s success.


Standard Bank’s manufacturing sector experts offer deep insights into what’s happening in the local manufacturing landscape. Talk to us about how we can help you finance the industrial technologies you need to be competitive.

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