Manufacturing Trends To Watch In 2007

Flexibility and outsourcing of non-core competencies are two trends to watch.

What will manufacturers have to contend with in 2007? EDS, a provider of IT services offers its analysis of the future.

Increasing Customer Demands -- Customers no longer want mass-produced products. They do, however, want products that they feel are customized to their own unique needs. Competition is driving prices down and customers have the tools to find and demand the lowest price. To compete, manufacturers must increase their product innovation and speed up the time to market.

Outsourcing of Non-Core Competencies -- Outsourcing will continue to increase, as manufacturers realize its importance in combating shrinking profit lines. Manufacturers' differentiators will continue to be kept in-house, while non-core competencies like CRM and warranty programs will be outsourced more frequently than not. Manufacturers will look to outsource complete modules or systems, rather than parts of their line.

Flexibility -- To remain competitive, manufacturers need to produce multiple products on a single line or facility. Flexible assembly lines are, in many ways, the future of the industry. Flexible manufacturing techniques like programmable robots instead of fixtures allow manufacturers to move technology components and ensure the right capability in the right place at the right time. Manufacturers must also have the flexibility to meet changing markets by having the ability to quickly ramp up production at facilities in growing markets or suffer the costs of shipping.

Competition -- The marketplace has grown and shrunk at the same time. Manufacturers who are agile, nimble and quick to adapt will grow, while those who are slow and large will struggle. Even if one's marketplace may have once upon a time been the United States, it is now, for better or worse, the world. This brings a whole new breed of global competitors.

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