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Going back to the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT), the use of Internet-connected technology increases risk in manufacturing. However, the risk is well worth it. The total number of consumer and business connected devices is expected to grow by 11.9 billion in 2018 alone, reports Michael Kotelec of, and this will bring a strong, robust boost to efficiency and productivity in manufacturing. While much of this chain will focus on key ways manufacturers can make more products, it will also have a profound impact on how manufacturers use information and interact with consumers through these additional top manufacturing technology trends.

Artificial Intelligence Tools Increase in Usefulness and Depth

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools will reduce delays and simplify customer service across all changes in manufacturing throughout 2018. Rather than devoting artificial intelligence exclusively to maintenance management or other tasks, AI will become part of the customer shopping experience, providing additional insight into preferred products, enabling customization of products via augmented and virtual reality and creating a seamless experience.

The use of artificial intelligence will also become commonplace in non-traditional shopping channels as well. These channels include app driven voice-activated systems, like Google Home or Amazon Echo. In fact, Alexa is being integrated into 2018 BMWs right now, says Bernard Marr of Forbes, so manufacturers will have yet another data stream that will allow them to benefit from the power of artificial intelligence. Plus, it means consumers will now be able to order products while driving, which could have major implications for manufacturers offering 3-D printing and two-hour delivery of custom products. The opportunities are endless.

Drone Delivery and Autonomous Trucking Viability Expands

Amazon has not yet launched Amazon Prime Air on a global scale, and autonomous trucks are still not yet available. However, these technologies will be a core focus of manufacturers as top manufacturing technology trends in 2018, particularly in relation to increasing customer experiences and service levels through faster and cheaper delivery options. Furthermore, manufacturers, especially small to mid-sized manufacturers, are likely to begin exploring drone delivery options, following the recent announcement from the Los Angeles Times that Google and UPS will begin looking into drone delivery as well.

Manufacturers Will Explore Blockchain in Greater Detail

Everyone seems interested in Blockchain technology in lieu of the crypto-currency craze. While Bitcoin has surged to record levels over the last year, the real applications of Blockchain technology in manufacturing have remains inaccessible. Blockchain technology has the potential to ensure the authenticity and quality of products in transit, during manufacturing and upon delivery. Manufacturers can also use Blockchain technology to track inbound freight, including raw materials used in the manufacturing process, explains Industry Week.

Maintaining compliance with relevant local, state, federal and international trade laws and regulations is the reason more manufacturers will turn to Blockchain technology, and by 2020 wine, 20% of manufacturers will be actively using Blockchain technology in some form. Up to 90% of European and North American banks are also exploring Blockchain technology for verification of funds and tracking, which will effectively reduce shrink associated with counterfeit or fraudulent purchases and protect manufacturers from potential risks that may exist on behalf of shareholders or other business-to-business (B2B) relationships, which will encourage more investment in manufacturing as well.

While manufacturers have not yet deployed Blockchain technology, 2018 will be the year in which analysis of Blockchain technology will take place, and more manufacturers will begin exploring how they can take advantage of this innovative, data-tracking solution, and these same benefits from blockchain, a shining star in these top manufacturing technology trends, extend to customer service too, reducing errors, simplifying returns processes and increasing customer experiences.

Adoption of Analytics Will Increase

Analytics are not a new technology, but the growing amount of data generated by the IIoT and the IoT has given rise to a new era of analytics system. Modern analytics leverage vast amounts of data, real-time information on productivity and manufacturing, key concerns and risks, equipment status, artificial intelligence and other technologies to help manufacturing leaders make data-based decisions on the go. In addition, analytics can be paired with artificial intelligence to automate the decision-making process, virtually eliminating the need for human input in maintaining or adjusting manufacturing employee duties or other operations.

The advancement toward analytics will also increase as platform-based companies and services go mainstream. Even well-established businesses, such as Ford, are entrenched in developing platform-based technologies to manage manufacturing and derive insights into operations.

How will These Top Manufacturing Technology Trends Increase Customer Experience?

The IIoT will continue to impact consumer-manufacturer interactions throughout the coming year. As  manufacturers implement these top manufacturing technology trends, manufacturers will gain new levels of visibility, increase customer service, leverage the power of advanced analytics and use cloud-based systems to meet growing consumer demands. However, the total capacity of existing supply chains limits these possibilities, so we will now move toward the top trends to watch for in supply chain in general throughout 2018.