The electronics manufacturing industry has seen much transformation and disruptions over the years, and in response has evolved accordingly to keep up with the winds of change. This is especially so for the past two years, as the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a challenge for many manufacturers and supply chains.
However, there is certainly cause for optimism as the rapid pace of technological advancements is making it possible for electronics manufacturing processes to be more efficient than ever. As such, exciting new possibilities await the industry. Here are some major trends that will shape the electronics manufacturing industry in 2022 and beyond. PCI examines them in detail.
Significant Industry Trends
Considering the current state of the pandemic and the fact that the future is difficult to predict, 2022 and beyond seem to be another few years of disruption. With growing demand, uncertainty in supply, as well as unpredictability in logistics transportation, there is a definite need for digitally enabled supply chains as well as further innovations that offer smarter tools and solutions to address challenges that the electronics manufacturing industry might potentially face. Here's a list of them:
As a technology, 3D printing has proved to be a boon to Electronics Manufacturing Service (EMS) providers, with a reduction in production costs being one of this technology's many benefits. With 3D printing, prototyping is quicker than ever, and this also helps product designers troubleshoot and test their designs within a shorter time. Although 3D printing does require some form of significant investment at the start, it does pay off in the long run as it provides the opportunity for tooling to be completed on-site, further reducing costs. Additionally, 3D printing allows for products to be created on-demand, this is another form of cost savings, as businesses can try out more design variations without having to pay more.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Rising to prominence in the past decade, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) tools have become increasingly valuable for many stakeholders in the manufacturing industry. Regularly seen as part of the design phase for products, VR's current integration with computer-aided design has allowed designers to surpass previous levels of accuracy and reliability. Changes can now be quickly made to a product prior to the production phase, with any last-minute modifications becoming easy and fast to execute. The value of AR and VR can also be examined during the inspection phase, as workers can quickly identify and fix errors before a design goes into full production. What this translates into are costs saved from the prevention of errors that could potentially arise from design, labour, and production inaccuracies.
Enterprise Resource Planning Systems
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems is another game changing technology that makes a world of a difference for organisations. ERP systems are widely used by companies to manage and integrate all the important parts of their businesses, (e.g., Sales, Marketing, Finance, and Human Resources). Crucial in maintaining a business's efficiency via automation and optimisation, ERP systems take advantage of real-time updates to minimise operational costs and prevent operational choke points.
Electronics Manufacturers have increasingly taken to the adoption of ERP Systems in order to make swifter and more accurate decisions, PCI being one of them, as we kept potential supply chain disruptions to a minimum by utilising these tools. Traditionally, making business decisions would require much careful deliberation, but with digitisation, we are agile enough to react immediately to changing market conditions based on real-time monitoring and data forecasts derived from an ERP System.
Internet of Things
The electronics manufacturing industry in general has been increasingly incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) into its operations. By making full use of the interconnectivity between different equipment and devices, linked via the Internet, the IoT adds another layer of sophistication that benefits manufacturers, some of which include the likes of cost reduction and product innovation.
Utilising various technological developments in computing software and hardware such as cloud computing and better sensors, the IoT is a vital and necessary addition to this industry. Such is its usefulness, as businesses worldwide utilising IoT have benefitted from more informed decisions derived from the most current and up-to-date statistics and analytics provided by IoT devices. The electronics manufacturing industry is one such beneficiary, taking advantage of IoT to increase work efficiency and improve workplace safety.
This is crucially important for an industry such as electronics manufacturing. As with any machinery, breakdowns are to be expected. But this can be prevented by businesses. Through Predictive Maintenance, a proactive strategy that utilises data provided by condition monitoring sensors to accurately inform businesses what are the most ideal time frames for equipment servicing, businesses can thus avoid having to scramble for alternatives to keep up with affected production schedules. They are also able to prevent their electronics manufacturing equipment from breaking down at the most inopportune times, thus saving precious time and money. When combined with IoT technology, equipment health can be monitored on a constant basis, and this will help prevent any potential failure from happening, as it can be predicted and avoided ahead of time.
As mentioned in the earlier sections, data is vital in helping businesses keep track of their operations. The electronics manufacturing industry is certainly one of those who have benefited from such technological advancements. In the past, only big corporations had access to big data, this is largely due to cost, which discouraged small and medium sized enterprises from gaining access to it. However, further advancements in IoT and other technologies have altered the landscape, and this has encouraged mainstream adoption of big data in business operations.
In the context of the electronics manufacturing industry, big data has provided manufacturers with the opportunity to use the information gathered in a variety of ways. Practical examples involve a reduction in operational costs and an overall increase in profit margins due to the minimising of wastage while maximising potential upside. As much as big data offers key information and insight, sound decision making is still required to be made by the management.
Difficulty Finding Employees
Although new and emerging technology has been a defining trend for many industries, the necessary manpower needed to fully utilise such technology is sorely lacking. Industries like electronics manufacturing have failed to keep up to speed, leading to a massive skill shortage across many specialised roles. What results is an overwhelming challenge in filling job vacancies. To combat these difficulties, many have taken to offering on the job training for prospective new hires that possess a basic understanding of such technologies.
Shifting from B2B to B2B2C
Through the years, electronics manufacturers have traditionally taken a business-to-business (B2B) approach to their operations. As opposed to selling directly to consumers, these manufacturers work hand in hand with other businesses, the latter operating as both buyer and seller. This has changed drastically in recent years, as electronic manufacturers shift towards a newer business model - business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C). By selling directly to consumers, companies enjoy the benefits of increased profit and a faster time to market.
In conjunction with data-gathering tools, manufacturers can modify their goods and services based on consumer data and feedback. This translates into additional perks such as better customer relationships, stronger brand equity, and a potentially larger market share by avoiding factoring in a retailer. For businesses to take advantage of the mentioned benefits, they will need to work with e-commerce platforms and supply chains, which leads us to the next point.
Leveraging the Supply Chain
Over the course of COVID-19, many businesses felt the sting of supply chain disruptions. To gain a competitive edge over competition, businesses have now realised the importance of proper supply chain utilisation. Increasingly insightful technologies across the field of logistics have allowed many companies to revamp and improve their supply chain processes.
The value of this is ultimately passed onto electronics manufacturers, who now operate their businesses in a more efficient manner. A reduction in costs, more accurate forecasting windows, and less operational hiccups are just some of the benefits one can derive from a strong supply chain. Taking into consideration the ever-changing landscape of businesses, the additional flexibility that comes from leveraging the supply chain also helps organisations adapt with agility to the demands and needs of the global market.
Last but not the least, the practice of relocating business operations back to the company's original country is another noteworthy trend. Also termed as reshoring, this business decision is largely based on active global economic conditions. As worldwide operation costs come to parity and wages increase, it will make more sense and cents to have businesses relocate their operations back home if not regionally. Further benefits of reshoring include circumventing any potential supply chain or logistics issue, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. As these businesses suffer from disruptions, the ones hit hardest were businesses who had operations far from their own shores.
How Can PCI Help?
Here at PCI, we are of the view that these trends will prove to be key determinants in shaping the outlook of the electronics manufacturing industry in the next one to two years. It is with the hope that the pandemic will show signs of abatement and businesses are able to creatively look for solutions to solve the issue of component shortage. These trends as listed by us in this article suggest that the electronic manufacturing industry faces an even brighter future. For more information on how PCI can be of service to you in your electronics manufacturing operations, you can either email us or call us to discuss a project, and we will outline what we can do for you, how much it will cost, and the timeline in which we will have it completed.
The electronics manufacturing industry has always been about technological advancements and the incorporation of such technologies in the manufacturing processes. Progress has always been the nature of this industry and being in the know about the trends that will potentially shape the future of the industry will give businesses an added advantage against competition. It is thus vital for you to understand how these trends affect the industry as a whole and how they might potentially benefit or affect your business. With such knowledge, progress can then be attained, and with advice and help provided by PCI, you too can benefit from the value of innovation.