According to a report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, the global advanced manufacturing market is predicted to double in size to £750bn by 2020, largely driven by developments in new technologies. The manufacturing sector is clearly in the midst of technology mega trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and cloud computing; where the application of such technologies are having a very real impact on productivity gains and growth potential. In essence, whilst technology is resolving issues felt by manufacturers and distributors in meeting customer needs; it is also presenting challenges in pushing businesses to adapt their processes, resources and skill sets. We have previously blogged about mass customisation and how technology has supported a more agile and flexible supply chain in order to delight the end customer; affecting both manufacturers and distributors alike within the route to market. Technology to harness and intepret big data both on the production line and back office includes anything from Business Intelligence tools such as Microsoft Power BI or TARGIT, or customer relationship management systems such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM; to informing predictive analytics and machine learning – supporting intelligent manufacturing and distribution operations. Technology such as this is there to empower businesses to take the right decisions and increase their efficiency in putting decisions into actions. Colin Masson, Microsoft’s global industry Director for Manufacturing and Distribution clarifies: “On the Internet of Things front, we’re bringing together a variety of Azure services within our new Azure IoT Suite to help our customers accelerate their transformation to digital businesses using smart connected products. Available in preview later this year, it will provide manufacturers with finished applications targeting common Internet of Things scenarios, such as remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance…What we’re now working towards is adding intelligence to those connections – using our technologies to add business context and create intelligent customer engagement and intelligent operations that are personalised, predictive and proactive.” For more information on the future of manufacturing technologies, we’d suggest downloading the Microsoft guide for Re-Imagining Manufacturing. Collaboration and communication is key across the manufacturing supply chain, with two way and real-time processes of key importance. Collaborative technology such as Microsoft Sharepoint can support this requirement to assist with fully compliant information sharing and search through secure portals and shared directories.