Manufacturing trends for 2016: customers call the shots

Cognizant’s head of innovation, manufacturing and logistics – explores the key trends facing industry over the coming 12 months.

2015 has been a year where embedded technologies enabled manufactured products to be more “informed”; new stakeholders with innovative products and services entered the ecosystem; traditional supply chains have been disrupted through new channel options; and, above all, customers demanded an ever-increasing level of customization, not just in products and services, but also across the entire procurement and product usage experience.

It’s time to look at what 2016 holds in store for us:


Consumers’ buying behaviour is changing and today, it’s not just items such as clothes and electronics that are purchased online; often, the process of buying a car starts with online research.

Buyers used to speak to dealers and then make their decision, whereas now, a lot of the background work is happening online before ever reaching the dealership.

Car dealers have long been aware of this trend, and are working with car manufacturers to make the most of this trend. Some car manufactures, for example, have made creative use of augmented reality (AR) to establish virtual dealerships for potential car buyers to experience the ‘look-and-feel’ of a vehicle before purchase. As a result of the proliferation of consumer devices, there’s a step change in expectations in B2B environments as, ultimately, it is the user experience taking centre stage.

This means that traditional B2B manufacturing companies will increasingly adopt a B2C approach towards their B2B customers.

Connected cars and infotainment

A study suggested that a rise in the number of connected cars will see “the value of the global market for connectivity components and services” reach “€170 billion by 2020”.

For many, the car is now turning into an extension of the home, with drivers’ digital, social and mobile habits – underpinned by technology advances – being integrated into the vehicle. Cars are turning into an extension of homes, with drivers’ digital, social and mobile habits being integrated into the vehicle
This trend is set to continue next year with car manufacturers keen to take advantage of monetisation opportunities around the connected car, not least by taking demographic tastes and needs into consideration, and applying these to the vehicles.

Through the use of sensors – which deliver data for analysis, the connected car provides yet another opportunity to understand driver characteristics, their needs, the features they might appreciate, while introducing an additional layer of safety.

Robotics and automation

Automation has started to infiltrate a number of industry sectors – from banking and insurance, to healthcare and manufacturing – to various degrees with increasing impact.

In fact, a recent study found that roughly 50% of respondents see automation as significantly improving processes over the next few years:

As a result, automotive and vehicle manufacturers too have increasingly begun to make use of automation and automated process in a number of situations.

For example through Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), vehicle manufacturers are able to move to the next stage of autonomous driving, and we will see an increase in the use of this technology.

Secondly, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, another major enabler of autonomous driving.

For example, if there is a traffic incident ahead, current navigation systems offer a diversion around the traffic incident.

Thirdly, there are autonomous trucks which can provide relief to the driver during long-haul journeys and finally, autonomous drones will be increasingly used to inspect land and railways tracks, as well as aiding yard and inventory management.