LNS Research Principal Analyst Tom Comstock makes his top five 2021 predictions for Industrial Transformation (IX). Discover what LNS Research sees...
The year 2030 is a top-of-mind strategic mile marker for manufacturers on the journey to Zero, with 2024 becoming a critical year for those navigating the fairly unpaved path. In our research, leaders view Industrial Transformations (IX) as a five-year (or more) journey. For a Collaborative Quality transformation, the average is longer, currently at seven years, with some taking as long as 11 years. So, 2024 is a critical year for achieving step change progress against the vision of agile and flexible quality operations. If you haven't already started, you are late as of 2024.
Before I get into my predictions for 2024, let's review how accurate my 2023 predictions have been this year.
Hindsight's 2023: The Report Card on Last Year’s Predictions
The rise of the Digital Quality Leader: I'd say the results here are mixed. We have seen some movement on this over the course of the year with the deployment of a Quality Strategy Leader in some LNS Research clients, but I can't say that this change has caught fire across industries. There is a recognition of the need for a strategy leader for the Executive Head of Quality that has digital under their purview. Still, the change hasn't taken hold significantly yet. Therefore, I give myself a low B on this prediction.
Seamless front-end experience for factory workers: Frankly, I nailed this one! Early this year, QAD purchased Redzone and is currently working on integrating their EQMS (formerly CEBOS) with the Redzone Connected Frontline Workforce (CFW) application. Later this fall, EtQ, a leading EQMS provider, announced a partnership with Augmentir, a leading CFW application provider, to deliver precisely the seamless front-end user experience I predicted. So, I give myself an A+ on this one.
Automated batch release will be realized: Some significant steps have been taken by a couple of notable EQMS vendors to move toward this vision. Honeywell Connected Life Sciences has an MES solution called MXP with some batch release functionality, and MasterControl is enabling automated batch release capability through their MX MES solution. Uptake on these has been slow due to the cautious nature of Life Sciences customers who enable the automated batch review (review by exception) capabilities but are still in belt and suspenders mode to build confidence. With that in mind, I give myself a B+ here.
Vision system applications on robots move beyond the pilot stage. Technically, this is true with a large aircraft engine manufacturer implementing visual inspections using robot-mounted vision systems. As such, I give myself a B on this last prediction.
Predictions for 2024: Help Lies Ahead
You overslept if you don’t have a future-proof strategy; time to wake up!
Labor constraints will continue accelerating in 2024 and beyond, pushing Executive Heads of Quality to develop strategies for future-proofing quality operations against a diminishing resource pool. The seemingly successful application of monetary policy in the US has reduced angst over a hard recession or even a soft landing. Signs in the late fall of 2023 suggest a softening of manufacturing demand; however, one data point does not a trend make, and the hiring picture has remained strong in spite of the recessionary fears of late summer. Quality functions feel the labor pinch harder than their manufacturing brethren due to smaller headcounts and perception of quality as a cost center instead of a value-adding asset. Applying technology to supplement or replace people is not plug-and-play. Our data on Quality 4.0 suggests that some transformation journeys have been 10 or more years in the making.
Generative AI takes on heavy lifting with new applications for Prognostic Quality
Executive Heads of Quality struggle with compliance work that dominates their mindshare and consumes available hours. Applications for Generative AI to reduce administrative task burden are significant and being realized rapidly. AI applied to manufacturing quality problems will open a new era of Prognostic Quality. Our latest State of IX Technology research shows that 12% are planning investments in AI in the next one to three years. Of course, this research was conducted right before the splash made by ChatGPT. This response is likely more prominent now than it was in late 2022. This investment will pay off as more and more Collaborate Quality programs leverage these technologies to improve efficiency and add value across the value chain. Generative AI will start being combined with causal AI to bring rich data context to Generative AI queries.
Seamless user experience helps win the battle for labor
2023 was a year of some steps toward realizing a seamless worker experience. As the labor crisis in manufacturing continues to worsen in 2024 and beyond, the worker will be more and more in focus for industrial applications playing through a CFW application. (Figure 1) The battle for labor will be won by those for whom seamless user experience is a top-of-mind strategy.
Figure 1: Collaborative Quality Plays Through CFW
Commoditization of knowledge moves mainstream
Our Unified Performance Excellence (UPX) research shows that industrial organizations are experiencing noticeable degradation in efficiency, productivity, and quality driven by the loss of experienced personnel in the workforce. The LNS Research Industrial Productivity Index shows that 92% of industrial companies are experiencing this. From our UPX Research, we see that a portion of leaders are not experiencing any performance loss due to the lowering of the mean experience level of their workforce.
One of the most significant differences is that leaders are 55% more likely to have a standardized process for identifying best practices and have a defined place to collect these knowledge artifacts for consumption by less experienced workers. (Figure 2)
Figure 2: Knowledge Management Structures
There you have it…my top Collaborative Quality predictions for 2024. Time will tell soon enough as we head quickly into the new year. Stay tuned as we share the latest transformation insights throughout 2024 and beyond. Happy New Year!
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