Staying on top of the latest industry trends is an effective way to keep original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) at the forefront of the competition, and this is especially true when it comes to technology. New innovations may be able to reshape the way OEMs handle their day-to-day operations and lead to leaner processes, cost efficient manufacturing and more effective supply chain management. It is especially imperative for OEMs to stay current as the U.S. market sees continued growth, so they are best able to take advantage of the positive changes coming to the American market.

"A number of things are going to happen over the next few years as the industry changes," Guy Bieber, director of strategy and architecture at Citrix, told Manufacturing Global. "For instance, 3-D printing in many materials and simple electronics will enable customization and manufacturing to come closer to the point of consumption, leading to more distributed and custom manufacturing work."

3-D printing
This technology has been around for a number of years now, but it is starting to become more than just a novelty. Medical applications are near limitless, and 3-D printers can be used to make everything from heart valves to mud huts. This includes things like fasteners and other class C components, which makes it much easier to procure custom parts regardless of the materials necessary. Manufacturing.net pointed out that 3-D printing can reduce lead times, cut down on waste, and even create complex designs that would otherwise require more intensive processes and complicated machinery, driving down costs as well.

Internet of Things (IoT)
Most aspects of supply chain management are run by computers these days, which makes IoT integral to the growth and expansion of manufacturing. In basic terms, IoT is the automation of digital communication. Software can enable machinery to collect and report data to factory managers, and in some cases, IoT could remove the human element from certain aspects of supply chain management. For instance, a machine used in the build process could be programmed to track inventory, sending an alert to another computer when a certain amount has been used. The computer would then be able to trigger a request for stock replenishment, reducing the risk of stock-outs. Other potential benefits of IoT include predictive maintenance and visibility, as the procurement and analysis of data will provide greater insight into the production process.

Remote control operations
In a separate article from Manufacturing Global, the source highlighted the potential of "plug-and-play" technology. This harnesses the power of the cloud and IoT to allow OEMs to control various aspects of the manufacturing process from a distance. For instance, an OEM's main offices could be located in a city for the convenience of doing business, while the warehouse would be better situated outside of city limits, where property is more affordable. With plug-and-play, managers are able to oversee and control various aspects of operations from the headquarters without having to spend time commuting to and from the factory. It can be easier for managers to monitor operations, track data and make adjustments that can lead to cost-savings, higher quality products and more efficient processes.