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Since the start of the First Industrial Revolution, manufacturing has been the force pushing industrial and societal transformation forward. Today, we’re in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as a new generation of sophisticated technologies is transforming manufacturing into a highly connected, intelligent, and ultimately, more productive industry. The manpowered shop floor of the past is being replaced by smart manufacturing facilities where tech-savvy workers, aided by intelligent robots, are creating the products and services of the future.

As we approach 2019, we’re looking ahead to the trends that will define intelligent manufacturing, as well as help empower clients to better evaluate and manage operations, build innovative products and services, and grow their manufacturing businesses.

These trends are detailed in our new 2019 Manufacturing Trends Report. In this report, we deep dive into six macro-level trends, providing a breadth of data, analysis, and observations on each.

Trend 1: IT and OT converge
IT systems merge with operational technologies to create smarter, connected solutions.

In 2019, businesses will face increased pressure to meet changing customer demands, including those for faster fulfillment and greater transparency. To do this, manufacturers will be forced to integrate their systems, including IT and OT systems, as well as integrating new and legacy systems.

Trend 2: The rise of XaaS
Manufacturers evolve their business models—moving closer to the consumer—to meet evolving customer demands.

New demands driven by the growth of the X-economies, such as on-demand services, will force manufacturers to re-evaluate their value chain to optimize performance and better meet customer expectations. As a result, manufacturers will seek tighter control over their value chain, including sales, which will push an increasing number of brands to explore direct-to-consumer options.

Trend 3: Intelligent manufacturing
Connected intelligent systems leverage AI and machine learning to make manufacturing smarter.

Throughout history, manufacturing and the products produced by manufacturers have been driven by technology. In 2019, technology is becoming smarter, with the cloud, IoT, AI, and machine learning delivering instant intelligence. Accordingly, manufacturing supply chains will become more intelligent in 2019, as well.

Trend 4: Manufacturing technology evolves
New technologies are revolutionizing manufacturing, improving R&D and production.

In 2019, manufacturing technology will become smarter, safer, and more efficient. Digital twins will provide manufacturers with an inexpensive way to test new products and environments and monitor products remotely.

Advancements to both additive and subtractive manufacturing will finally start to see broader adoption through hybrid manufacturing models. And other innovations, including autonomous devices, advanced materials, and AR/VR, will gain broader adoption in 2019, improving workflows, unlocking new product opportunities, and enabling new levels of productivity and collaboration.

Trend 5: Businesses adapt to an evolving workforce
A new, diverse generation enters the workforce with new expectations and demands.

As manufacturers face an increasing skills gap in 2019, they must seek new ways to fill critical roles on the front line and in the back office. They will try to sell young, tech-savvy workers on a career in manufacturing, retrain older employees, seek foreign labor, and tap the emerging gig economy to meet temporary labor demands.

Trend 6: Living in the age of uncertainty
From tariffs to foreign policy, uncertainty puts a strain on businesses.

2018 was a year with great uncertainty, and trends suggest that 2019 will be no different. From tariffs and trade policy to Brexit and data protection, manufacturers must navigate muddy waters through a turbulent, highly-politicized environment.

The world is changing and as a result, so is manufacturing. As the manufacturing companies of the past turn into the intelligent manufacturing businesses of the future, manufacturing leaders must leverage technology to help bridge the gap, improve safety and operations, provide greater transparency, and deliver better products and experiences.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is enabling intelligent manufacturing through a suite of holistic, connected applications. It gives businesses the tools to accelerate the speed of doing business by empowering people to make smarter decisions, transforming business processes faster, and driving rapid business growth.

Please read our report, the 2019 Manufacturing Trends Report, to get much greater detail on the topics discussed above, and learn more about how Microsoft can help you transform your business to handle new challenges and maximize the opportunities ahead.