The future of manufacturing in the U.S. is looking up. We conducted an informal survey of manufacturing CEOs, and the general consensus is that manufacturing will make a comeback in the US. The reason is partly because of perceived poor quality coming out of other countries, mostly China. China's increased industrialization has resulted in improved quality of life in the country and a growing middle class, and as a result, Chinese factories are finding it necessary to pay higher salaries to attract workers. While this is the natural result of industrialization, the higher salaries also make the Chinese market less competitive in the global marketplace.

The perception of poor quality coming out of China is by no means universal. The iPhone, which is produced in China, is just one example of a top-quality product sold in the global marketplace, and which adheres to Apple's rigorous quality standards. Some respondents also pointed to a lack of competitive spirit among U.S.-based CEOs however, stating that those CEOs spend too much time complaining about foreign competition and not enough time competing.

Still others believe we are not educating and training the work force necessary to support high-end manufacturing in the U.S., and point to the need for a more sophisticated focus on STEM education. These high-end manufacturing jobs command higher salaries and are more likely to form the basis of U.S.-based manufacturing in the future, and are absolutely essential for the U.S. manufacturer to remain competitive.

Some believe electronics manufacturing will not return to the U.S. but the medical devices industry and other heavily regulated products will become stronger in the U.S. Manufacturers will continue to improve profits by seeking the least expensive countries in which to manufacture their products.

We are now seeing manufacturing of low end products like some clothing moving out of China to even lower cost locations like Bangladesh. Will Africa and Cambodia be next?

Dr. Sarah Layton,  CEO, Corporate Strategy Institute, Inc


Five Big Data Trends

While 2014 may not be the watershed moment for Big Data in manufacturing, it sure will enlighten a number of leaders in learning about the smarter ways to monetize Big Data. And, Apps would turn out to be one of the smartest strategies.

Here are five trends in Big Data:

1) Big Data will gain more visibility at the board room level. This will lead to incrementally more explorations by top executives. Leaders in manufacturing organizations will want to explore how Big Data could generate positive business impact for their organizations.

What this means is we will find a number of consulting firms and specialists hawking strategies for manufacturing organizations in helping them navigate the Big Data waters…where to begin? How to begin? How much to invest? These will become the key questions in the minds of the executives even before they think about how much value they get out of a Big Data initiative.

2) Big Data will become more consumer-centric fueled by the availability of machine data. We will find in 2014 manufacturing organizations look at Big Data as a means to collect more data on their consumers, learn about their behaviors and design better services and products.

Take an example of the automobile of today, which generates hundreds of gigabytes of data on a daily basis on all the driving aspects of a consumer. Manufacturing organizations would be looking at ways and means to tap into this consumer behavior and machine data to enhance product reliability, introduce newer safety standards, innovative product designs, and predict product lifecycles.

3) Big Data will become Bigger. What does this mean? in spite of all the popular press and noise around how organizations are deriving huge value from Big Data, we will find most organizations still in the hunt to collect and amass large amounts of data in the hopes (and, sometimes out of fear of losing out to their competition) that all these data will give them some “golden” insights which will deliver “golden” results for their bottom line and top line.

The reality, however, is going to be one that will see us saying good bye to 2014 and most organizations would have realized that they have been mostly collecting data and have focused on storage vs. solving problems. However, we will see some smarter organizations putting whatever Big Data they have to use in solving real problems. These organizations would be looking at technologies, frameworks and strategies from the Big Data realm for enabling their business processes smarter in relatively shorter time periods and with incrementally smaller investments as opposed to taking a “Big Bang” approach.

4) Big Data & Cloud will intersect even more. Manufacturing organizations will continue to learn more about the cost-effective ways to harness the power of Big Data without investing massive amounts of capital in infrastructure. They will explore newer technologies based on cloud platforms that enable them to collect, store & process large amounts of machine and consumer data without incurring huge implementation costs & failures as well as longer timelines.

5) Big Data will deliver value through Apps. Increasingly we will find the manifestation of value from Big Data happen through problem-specific Apps. We will find organizations adopting best-practices driven Big Data Analytics Apps that are capable of analyzing all the Big Data streams but are focused on solving a specific set of related problems. Organizations will realize that this is the most effective way to quickly monetize value from Big Data.

Phani Nagarjuna, CEO, Nuevora


New Methods of Utilizing Information 

We see a trend toward companies improving supply chain visibility by extending traditional customer- centric EDI transaction sets to also include vendor based EDI transaction sets. 

Also, we see manufacturers integrating process monitoring running on their PLC network with their core ERP application running on the business data network.  

Another industry trend for the coming year is the move to implementing dimensional financial reporting to create product line balance sheet and income statements using customer and geographic-centric data. 

In addition, we see the importance of improving customer lead times by identifying domestic sources for critical components engineered to reduce assemble while differentiating product offerings.  

Finally, in the Engineer to Order and Configure to Order (ETO & CTO) manufacturing space, companies are beginning to implement project based operational and fiscal controls.

Greg Torski, director, Performance Improvement Partners