As was the case in 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shape how industries operate in 2022. The consequences of global supply chain disruption, labor shortages, the threat of new variants, and general uncertainty continue to challenge the metal fabrication and manufacturing industry.
Despite the challenges, metal fabricators continue to innovate and adapt to the changing times. Watch for these four precision metal fabrication trends to dominate 2022 and the years to come.
“Made in the USA” was once a mantra of many manufacturers. But over the past several decades, manufacturers increasingly sent production (or elements of it) overseas in pursuit of cheaper labor and materials.
Increasingly, those who rely on precision metal fabrication services are reshoring operations to combat emerging challenges in the global marketplace. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic in combination with trade disputes, higher overseas wages, and shipping delays have created the perfect storm for some offshore manufacturers. In fact, there are about 40% fewer transpacific ships sailing than originally scheduled, and rates have quadrupled in the last year.
Expect to see more companies that use metal fabricators to bring their operations stateside. This likely won’t be a rapid pivot, however, as they’ll need to add capacity, invest in new equipment, and establish relationships with domestic suppliers. Metal fabrication companies that already conduct work for the U.S. Defense Department likely won’t face similar challenges. That’s because the majority of their operations must comply with NAVSEA requirements and other governmental regulations that mandate the use of domestically made materials.
While automation isn’t necessarily a “new” trend, its adoption is accelerating in response to the difficulties many metal fabrication companies have in recruiting skilled labor. In the past, some workforces feared that robotics and automation would take their jobs. Today, many team members welcome its adoption as a way to improve working conditions, streamline efficiencies, and support their role rather than compete for it.
Workforces and employers alike are recognizing the benefits of incorporating automation processes into their workflows, especially for repetitive tasks that don’t require a human touch. Automation allows for higher output and productivity, better lead times and quality, and less waste and reworks. Ultimately, automation can help a company grow, meaning its workforce will likely grow with it.
Adapting to changing markets and customer demands has always been critical in manufacturing. Perhaps like no other time in history, the ability to remain agile has meant the difference between making it or breaking it for some organizations. Continuous improvement and agile processes are driving factors of success, allowing metal fabricators to adapt to changing situations.
Prior to the pandemic, many organizations strived to remain agile and lean by implementing just-in-time manufacturing. It proved to be an Achilles heel for some. This strategy involved minimizing inventory, allowing businesses to cut costs and adapt to changing markets. When supply chain shortages became the norm, some manufacturers were left without materials to make their products.
Going forward, agile workforces need their processes to be adaptable to account for external factors that may not have been part of the narrative in the past.
To remain agile, metal fabrication facilities rely on multiple systems and a hyperconnected workforce. Automation, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, various softwares and applications, communication platforms, customer portals, and other cloud computing capabilities are all critical to success. But they all are subject to cyber threats.
Since the onset of the pandemic, millions of employees across the globe began working remotely, opening a Pandora's box for cybercriminals. There has been a 125% year-over-year increase in cyber incidents in the first half of 2021 alone. The triple digit increase impacted the United States more than any other country, garnering 36% of incident volume.
Part of the reason for the astonishing rise in cyberattacks is the simultaneous rise in the number of remote workers. Consistent with past cybersecurity trends, employees who fall for phishing scams continue to be the biggest source of cyber breaches. Cybersecurity best practices and ongoing employee training will have an even greater emphasis in metal fabrication strategic plans. This is especially important for those who subcontract for the U.S. government or risk disclosing critical data and trade secrets.
These metal fabrication industry challenges and trends stress the importance of vetting fabricators and asking the right questions up front. Part of that vetting process is submitting detailed RFQs that outline project requirements to ensure the company can comply and perform up to your standards. Use our helpful RFQ checklist to make sure you’re not skipping over any important criteria. Download this helpful resource below.