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Robots vs. Cobots: Electronics Manufacturing Trends in 2017

Now that the hype around the new year (Chinese New Year included) has settled and resolutions have been broken, people are pretty much back to their regular routines.

While gym traffic may be neutralized, the year is still early and there are exciting things on the horizon.

For us in the electronics industry, the new year means more innovation and finding ways to make manufacturing smarter, faster and more cost efficient. With technology changing daily and manufacturing processes evolving, OEMs and EMS providers constantly have to adapt. But trends are not always limited to technology, it could also be the improvement of processes.

Here are 5 electronics manufacturing trends to look out for in 2017.

 

1. Riding the IoT Wave

It’s impossible to talk about trends and electronics without mentioning the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart electronic devices being connected to the Internet is nothing new. But the presence of these connected devices will likely soar, as IoT spending is expected to jump from $480 billion in 2016 to $1.7 trillion by 2020. In the EMS industry, this means machines are able to collect more data, allowing them to be more responsive and make better real-time automated decisions. From a supply chain standpoint, the IoT will continue to predict customer demand and always have the appropriate stock of parts and supplies.

 

2. 3D is Not Just for the Movies

The effort towards faster turnaround times and manufacturing efficiency is being enhanced by 3D printing technology. In 2017, OEMS will likely use 3D more – and use it in a big way. Some industry experts predict that more 3D printing and additive manufacturing processes will be used to make large-scale pieces and final production parts.

 

3. OEMs in the Market for the Aftermarket

According to a Harvard Business Review study, more than $1 trillion is spent yearly on assets that are already owned. For decades, the sale of aftermarket parts have been controlled by third party resellers and other suppliers. With the margins and demand high, more OEMs are looking to capture a larger slice of that market by investing in inventory and technology that will keep products operating at a high-level for a long period of time.

 

4. Cobots Take Over

In the ‘80s movie “Back to the Future”, people envisioned the 21st century to be filled with flying cars and robots. While we are not walking side-by-side with robots on the street yet, they are becoming more visible in manufacturing facilities across the globe. But robots are not taking over jobs, they are working side-by-side with manufacturing employees – hence the term “cobots”. The cobots are designed to assist the human worker in completing tasks in an efficient manner. Cobots are expected to increase in 2017 because they are cost-effective, collaborative, productive, and easily adaptable.

 

5. All Eyes on Risk

Well this one isn’t as exciting as cobots, but something you might see more of in 2017.

No matter the industry, re-evaluating business objectives is always top of mind for companies when transitioning into a new year. In the electronics manufacturing industry, both OEMs and contract manufacturers will put a higher priority on risk management. Manufacturers will focus on supply chain stability and business continuity planning to lessen risk derived from unforeseen market conditions.

So there you have it. Just a few trends to keep in mind as you continue to make strides in 2017. You might want to take your cobot with you though.

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