What Will the Future of Manufacturing Look Like?

By Matthew Portu, President, Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies

We have a 168-year history of strategic, long-term thinking that has helped insure the Freudenberg Group’s success. But frankly, the pace of global change we are experiencing today is unprecedented, and it keeps getting faster. Things that worked for us in the past may not work in the future – we just don’t know. In response, we have already completed the first phase of a project that looks ahead to 2050 to identify the global trends that will likely impact our company.

Broadly, we believe that unparalleled transfer of consumption to developing economies, more volatility in the price and availability of natural resources, a shortage of necessary employees to work in automated and robotic settings and more systems digitalization will change the face of manufacturing as we know it. The constant flow of data and information even today is astounding and the Internet of Things (IoT) is where it will continue to connect in the future. Companies that can harness the IoT and improve their speed and efficiency will be the winners.

From my standpoint, macro activities like mining and analyzing Internet data in new ways and developing innovative, digital training, manufacturing and supply chain networks – what we consider the heart of Industry 4.0, by the way – will frame the entire manufacturing landscape going forward. Our own programs in important, evolving areas like E-Mobility, fuel cells, additive manufacturing, new materials development, supply chain optimization and even employee training, will be heavily influenced by the speed and possibilities the IoT and Industry 4.0 bring to our organization.

I don’t think we can accurately forecast every trend or market movement that is going to take place over the next three decades. But I do think it’s safe to assume that improving efficiency and productivity in the 21st century will be as important –  likely even more important given environmental, legislative, economic and societal concerns – as it was in the 20th. The resources we will use to get there are starting to emerge.

Matthew L. Portu is president of Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies (Freudenberg-NOK) in North America. Freudenberg-NOK is a leading producer of elastomeric seals and custom molded products and is part of Freudenberg and Co., a diverse group pf global companies headquartered in Weinheim, Germany.

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