Things to Come: Predictions for Automation, Manufacturing & the Economy

In recent weeks, media have offered predictions and projections for the economy and industry for 2013.  While most authors maintain a cautious tone, there is enough positive data to suggestThe pathy to success 2013 is poised for continued growth and expansion.  Following is a survey of articles.  If you agree or disagree with the conclusions, please feel free to share your perspectives in the comments.

IndustryWeek leads off with an article by Alan Beaulieu on what you should expect from the economy in 2013.  The economist notes that, despite some concerns, Europe seems to be handling its fiscal challenges, and greater stabilization is expected in the banking industry.  China is poised to be a major player in 2013, and economists are still cautious about Spain and Greece.  While there remains some weakness in the U.S., historical trends suggest that industrial production may be headed for positive territory.

In this Washington Post blog projecting a better U.S. economy in 2013, writer Neil Irwin suggests there is ample reason to look to 2013 as “the year that the U.S. economic recovery really feels like a recovery.”  He notes that certain obstacles that have been holding back the economy are subsiding.

Industry analyst firm IDC hosted a webinar on Dec. 12 focusing on manufacturing and supply chain issues.  The group emphasized that “Product and process agility and speed necessitates that manufacturers become ‘massively multidimensional,’ with the ability to leverage flexible factories, postponement techniques, segmentation, and profitable proximity sourcing to meet the diverse product needs of customer and consumers who increasingly look for personalization in their purchases.”  He also noted that “the growing role for technology also necessitates a consistently close working relationship with the CIO.”  Among the industrial automation predictions for 2013:

  • Supply chains will invest in technologies that enable visibility, visualization and virtualization
  • The Big Data ‘era’ dawns for supply chain organizations

Automation World editor Grant Gerke took a look at anticipated progress in 2013 for reshoring and media reports noting the lack of manufacturing skills in the U.S.  To counter the skills issue, Grant showcased an Illinois college program designed to deliver real-world skills and training in actual manufacturing environments.  As he notes, initiatives like the Harper Community College Advanced Manufacturing internship program are a good start and “the right direction.”

Another IndustryWeek report presented a bullish view on the state of advanced manufacturing in 2012, which showed significant expansion coupled with an improving economy and a lowering jobless rate.  In particular, IW pointed to a very positive manufacturing technology orders report from the Association for Manufacturing Technology.

Finally, the Randstad Manufacturing Employee Confidence Index hit its highest number in five years.  Despite the fact that there was little change in job creation, the human resources firm, in conjunction with Harris Interactive, found that manufacturing workers are upbeat on the prospects for finding new jobs and feel confident in the success of their current employers.

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