Engineering Drives Industrial Innovation
Rapid technological advances are the new normal, generating a constant stream of beneficial improvements to products and processes. Whether it's an implantable medical device, more cost-effective utilities or the next generation in auto efficiency, engineers are developing or reinventing tools that can transform our lives in ways we couldn't have imagined just a few decades ago.
Medical treatment is shifting from the hospital to the home as increased healthcare spending, demographic changes and technological innovations converge to spur growth in mobile health monitoring devices.
Because of this, regulation of the medical device industry is on the rise, due to a demand for better and safer products by end users and industry stakeholders. Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs (QA/RA) professionals and senior managers now cite "the changing regulatory environment" as one of their greatest challenges as the regulatory approval process becomes more difficult in developed markets like the U.S. and European Union.
The changing state of health care delivery and the growing convergence of these sectors indicate that the future is very clearly in combining drugs and devices. Implantable pumps, transdermal patches and pre-filled syringes are increasingly entering the drug-delivery product pipeline. Market research finds that the global market for combination devices is growing at nearly 8 percent and will likely exceed the growth of individual medical device and pharmaceutical markets.
After several decades of industry-wide change from a variety of external and internal forces, utilities now face a new wave of powerful disruption from progressing technology and shareholder performance expectations. At the same time, converging pressures such as grid modernization, an aging workforce, growing client demand for affordable, reliable and environmentally sustainable electricity, governmental regulation and IT/OT integration are bringing immense challenges that companies must solve through effective lean operations, all while driving utilities to strategically maneuver and create value for their stakeholders.
One of the largest drivers of utilities activity is updating the grid infrastructure. Modernizing the U.S. power grid to make it smarter and more resilient is one of the largest undertakings in utility history. The Grid Modernization Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP) developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) seeks to increase the grid's reliability and resilience.
For utilities, a modernized grid means improved security, reduced peak loads, increased integration of renewables and lower operational costs. The goal is to use technologies, equipment and controls that communicate and work together to deliver electricity more reliably and efficiently. Consumers will also benefit from the reduction in the frequency and duration of power outages, reduced impact from storms and having service restored more quickly when outages occur. In addition, with easy access to their usage data, consumers can better manage their own energy consumption and costs.
Among trends in the automotive industry, autonomous vehicles (AV) are currently getting most of the attention, but their slow progress into the mainstream consumer market isn't the only challenge facing automakers. Even if AV's develop faster than expected, automotive original equipment manufacturers OEMs face huge, expensive technological hurdles in other areas.
MPG/Emissions Requirements: Tightened MPG/emissions requirements continue to have a significant impact on how automakers prioritize their workload. OEMs are looking to technological methods to provide cheaper solutions for fuel efficiency, including next-generation powertrains and chassis as well as lighter-weight materials. This has resulted in an additional engineering R&D spend as well as new production lines that require maintenance, assemblers, production workers and robotics.
IoT-Enabled Features: Advancements on the road to full automation, like the development of add-on mobile services and applications related to the IoT, are in full swing at most OEMs, as are other IoT-enabled features, upgrades and new designs for dashboards and systems. Safety features from blind-spot warnings to cameras to infotainment features like smartphone mirroring on the dashboard are now considered necessary to consumers.
New Market Expansion: Most industry growth will come from emerging markets, which comes with its own array of expenses. Creating vastly cheaper vehicles, with the attendant product design and marketing needed to launch them, as well as the need to establish manufacturing operations closer to the point of sale, is a crucial but costly move.
How automakers respond to these challenges can determine the state of the industry in the near- and long-term.
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