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Innovations Driving Manufactures in 2021

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Despite all the challenges, many manufacturers were able to harness technology to create success in a challenging 2020.

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning will have a critical role in helping mitigate COVID-19 cases on the shop floor.

AI can free workers from repetitive processes and automatically reassign workers to distanced stations. It can enable more machines to be remotely monitored through dashboards and performance reviews, and detect quality and conformance conditions around the clock.

In a recent IndustryWeek study, over a third (37%) of manufacturers said they’re ramping up AI/ML use in response to COVID-19.

  • As new technology platforms proliferate, standardization through open source will become essential.

IndustryWeek research has found that manufacturers are experimenting with disruptive technologies and digital enablers at unprecedented rates; a recent study also revealed that 76% of manufacturers have increased the use of digital enablers and disruptive technologies, in light of the pandemic.

Open source is a proven way to implement standardization and unite siloed technology and will take on an even greater role within manufacturing in 202.

  • Sustainability will become a renewed priority within Industry 4.0.

Sustainability is a secular trend that has dominated the public discussion before the pandemic and will do so again soon. Governments and organizations alike are paying more attention to and measuring the sustainability aspects, including better understanding their own carbon and ecological footprints. The global non-profit climate research provider CDP noted a 45% year-over-year increase of companies securing its “A score,” which measures commitment to environmental transparency and action.

  • Tangible 5G use cases will emerge, with manufacturing leading the way. 

5G will play an important role in Industry 4.0’s transformation, with endless promises—from enabling warehouse automation, to collecting and structuring industrial data for the cloud, and serving AR/VR content to factory technicians for machine diagnostics. 5G will transform the way products are made and supply chains are managed in 2021.

  • Connected remote work will become the norm, rather than the exception.

According to The Conference Board, within the manufacturing sector, the percentage of U.S. full-time employees working primarily from home (at least three days each week) significantly increased from 7% to almost a third (32%). A culture shift is happening. As more and more manufacturers get even more comfortable with these tools and their benefits, we’ll see a lot more openness to a “new work remotely norm” taking place in 2021.


This article is based on IndustryWeek’s article “Rethinking the Norm: 5 Ways Manufacturing Will Innovate in 2021” in December 2020.


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