If you know where the industry is headed, you put yourself in a better position to get there before anyone else.

Thanks to the break-neck pace at which technology has continued to advance, the top trends in manufacturing are no longer ones that only the largest businesses can afford to embrace. In the past, concepts like smart manufacturing and zero touch automation required tremendous capital investment to take advantage of... but, thankfully, those days are over.

Where costs have dropped across the board, innovation has run rampant –leading to a best-case scenario for small and medium-sized manufacturing companies in particular. All of this has ushered in not only a bold new era of productivity, but profitability as well.With that in mind, here are the three key manufacturing trends that SMBs need to pay attention to. Collectively, they just might be your best chance at cementing your competitive advantage over the next five years as well.

The Era of Zero-Touch Automation is Upon Us

Everyone knows that automation is a perfect opportunity to increase productivity and cut costs in one fell swoop, allowing certain menial tasks to be performed automatically so that your human employees can focus on those tasks that really need them. But imagine an environment where you could achieve this breakthrough level of automation in your facility, all without every lifting a finger.

Thankfully, with zero-touch automation, you can. It's a concept that involves incorporating voice recognition AND voice response to more fully integrate various system support functions into your daily routines and 2020 looks to be the era where SMBs in particular can embrace this concept with open arms. We're not too far off from a day where you can use a voice assistant like Siri or Alexa to get more details on the next job on your work list, for example. Soon, you'll even be able to use integrated augmented reality (AR) solutions to create further enhancements of your hands-free operations, thus creating an environment where innovation can thrive as well.

Breaking Down the Internet Barrier

It's safe to say that your life would be easier if modern-day search tools would give you a bit more flexibility when it came to finding exactly the right resource for the right job at the right time. Technology has advanced significantly in this direction, too, as it is now possible for SMBs to integrate incredibly powerful search functionality not only within applications, but out to the Internet as well.

Soon, you'll be able to enter even an admittedly generic description of an item and match it not only with the correct item in your inventory, but one that isn't even in your system yet. You'll even be able to search for an item based on the bare minimum amount of information, like a photograph. Thanks to machine learning, your system can even get smarter as it goes along –suggesting item classifications and particular accounts that these items should be assigned to and nearly everything in between.

Intelligent Advisors are Ready for Prime Time

Speaking of machine learning, manufacturing SMBs are now able to use this critical subset of artificial intelligence to guide not only search and operations (as outlined above), but also support and even information entry as well. With machine learning, computer systems don't just perform functions that normally require human intervention automatically –they actually get better at these jobs as time goes along.

This means that soon systems will become not only more responsive, but less intrusive as well. Your technology will finally get out of the way of you and your people, thus making your relationship with your critical digital resources even more effective as a result.

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The Future of Your Manufacturing Business is Born from the Technology of Today

With all three of these manufacturing trends combined, SMBs like yourself suddenly have access to a powerful weapon to wield not only as you fend off competitors, but on your quest to create a true experience for your own customers that they won't be able to find anywhere else. Taken together, they're not just how you build a significant advantage in the marketplace for yourself today... they'll also help you maintain that advantage for the next decade and beyond.

To further explore critical manufacturing trends like these, or to learn about how you can start using smart cloud ERP technology to your advantage via solutions like Exact Cloud Business, terrific –we'd love to help.

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