Three Trends to Plan for in 2017

The last year brought a number of surprises, but overall positive growth to the U.S. economy and the manufacturing sector. Looking forward, 2017 looks bright, with trends towards economic growth and new technology taking manufacturing to new horizons.

Revenues, Profits, Hiring Look Up
With only a 1% rise in manufacturing revenues this year, that number is expected to grow to 4.6%, outpacing slower rises in labor and benefits costs, and costs of inputs. Hiring in manufacturing is also expected to expand, though modestly, mainly due to a lack of skilled workers required to fill vacant jobs. While markets soared immediately following the results of the election, economists predict these number to even out, as any policies enacted in 2017 are unlikely to produce such immediate, noticeable economic effects in big businesses. For specific industry outlooks, low food prices are expected to drive down buying in agricultural equipment, aerospace spending is likely to decline from consistent previous growth, but spending in oil, coal, and natural gas production and transportation are expected to increase.

The Internet of Things Gets Real
Talk of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been buzzing for years, but advancement to quad-core microprocessors and low-power, long-range wireless protocols makes 2017 a potentially landmark year for smarter, faster IoT technology. Businesses are now examining the ROI behind IoT, such as pay-per-use business models like jet engine manufacturers selling “power by the hour” and MRI machine manufacturers charging per-image fees. Like popular connected consumer devices like Xbox One or Amazon Echo, industrial IoT machines will only be as good as the software and services that support them. Exploratory pilot projects by big companies will start IoT adoption, and small business markets will utilize key partnerships using focused, problem-solving IoT devices and services. However, critical security failures and a lack of IoT cybersecurity professionals present security risks and, likely, a rise in DDoS attacks resembling the Mirai botnet attack which brought down over 60 popular websites in North America in October, including sites like Paypal, CNN, Visa, and Amazon.

Additive Manufacturing Adds Up
Moves by major manufacturing leaders indicate 3-D printing and additive manufacturing are poised to grow quickly in 2017. GE recently acquired a 75% stake in Concept Laser GmbH in Germany, a producer of laser additive manufacturing machines, with near-future plans to take full ownership. This accompanies acquisitions of similar additive manufacturing companies in Sweden, Canada, and Connecticut. Methods Machine Tools Inc., recently expanded additive manufacturing laboratories in seven technology centers across the country. The rising need for 3D printing of aerospace components, which dominates the 3D printing industry, may drive these developments. The anticipation for more drones, electric cars, and advanced medical devices, which require the lighter, smaller, more delicate components that 3D printing specializes in, may also play a role.
Combining a positive economic outlook with powerful technology advancements makes 2017 a year for expansion and development. By anticipating the trends ahead, you can make the most out of the future and make ongoing success part of the forecast.