Ten Problems for Manufacturing in the 2020s

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Literature Review: Manufacturing Problems for the 2020s

The emergence and diffusion of advanced digital production technologies of the fourth industrial revolution are radically altering manufacturing production, increasingly blurring the boundaries between physical and digital production systems. Advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing and data analytics generate significant opportunities to accelerate innovation and increase the value-added content of production in manufacturing industries. This 2020 Industrial Development Report [1] contributes to the debate on the fourth industrial revolution by presenting fresh analytical and empirical evidence on the future of industrialization in the context of the present technological paradigm shift.

The upheaval is not confined to the factory floor, business models are also in flux as manufacturers get new insights into how their products are used and repackage products into services [2]. What benefits do companies experience from Industry 4.0 projects? Faster sales cycle, increase in renewals efficiency, increase in customer satisfaction, higher gross margins, reduced quote to order cycle time, increase in revenue, sales per customer deal conversion, increase cross and up-sell opportunities, reduced staffing needs. What are the concerns regarding implementing or continuing to use forms of connectivity? Initial development costs are too high, lack of expertise, cybersecurity concerns, payback period is too long or too uncertain, difficult defining business case.

Recently, the company’s overall performance has become a major concern of our modern society, as a key factor that can potentially increase firm’s competitive advantage and ensure its sustainable development. However, overall performance is increasingly being considered as highly complex because of the complex interrelationships within industrial systems [3]. It is guided by the definition of a measurement indicators system that allows judicious implementation of overall performance in firm, whatever its production activity and its performance status. It is, effectively, based on the definition of key activities that create value for the company, through a value chain approach, and the modeling of the different interactions.

Due to movement restrictions during the crisis, service industries such as hotels and restaurants and labour-intensive manufacturing industries have been severely affected in China [4]. Capital markets have become wary of these industries since the start of the crisis. The stock prices of service industries such as accommodation and catering, as well as manufacturing industries, including shoemaking and woodworking, have experienced large declines. Therefore, to support small and medium enterprises, the characteristics of the industry should warrant particular consideration, and support should be strengthened for small and medium enterprises in the service and manufacturing industries where the impact from the epidemic has been severe.

The major impact of the pandemic is on the supply side of the global economy, while remedies now considered and applied are largely on the demand side. Factory closures in China and elsewhere lead to a contraction in macroeconomic supply of goods and services, moving the global economy from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ – lower output, higher prices, or what is known as ‘stagflation’. A demand-side response to the contraction (e.g. Central Banks lower interest rates) to increase demand will aggravate the inflation, with only a small impact on output and employment, especially if in the short term the supply curve (which is also a cost curve) is price-insensitive, owing to the inability to find alternate sources of parts and materials. The global armory of tools against supply side disruptions and shocks is very very limited. Under reasonable scenarios, a global recession is likely [5].

Starting from such general references, this booklet identifies ten relevant areas from very recent contributions put forward at academic level in the form journal articles, conference proceedings and students theses. Ten freely accessible internet references have been selected for each area and direct links are provided at the end of each chapter for own consultation. Our selected references do not intend to mirror ranking indexes nor establish novel classifications. On the contrary, they are meant to represent peer-reviewed, diverse and scientifically-sound case studies for vertical dissemination aimed at non-specialist readers. They will also be able to scoop even more references through the bibliography that is reported at the end of each selected reference.

Without further ado, these are the “Ten Problems for Manufacturing in the 2020s” that we are going to introduce in this booklet:

  1. sustainability, 
  2. industry 4.0,
  3. smart,
  4. responsibility,
  5. additive,
  6. digitalization,
  7. supply chain,
  8. optimization,
  9. skills gap,
  10. distributed.

Each problem has its own dedicated chapter made of an introductory section, a short presentation of the ten selected references and a conclusions section.

The final chapter of this booklet will report the conclusions from each chapter again in order to provide a complete executive summary.


[1] UN Industrial Development Organization, “Industrial Development Report 2020: Industrializing in the digital age”, 2019, United Nations, ISBN: 978-92-1-106456-8 , online at 

[2] Raconteur, “Manufacturing 2020”, 2018, online at 

[3] A. Lamjahdi et al., “Toward a model to apprehend the complexity of manufacturing firm’s overall performance”, 2020, International Journal of Engineering Business Management Volume 12: 1–20, online at 

[4] P. Wellener, “Saving China from the coronavirus and economic meltdown: Experiences and lessons”, 2020, in: Mitigating the COVID Economic Crisis: Act Fast and Do Whatever It Takes,, 2020 March 18, online at

[5] S. Maital et al., “The Global Economic Impact of COVID-19: A Summary of Research”, 2020 March, Samuel Neaman Institute, Israel, online at 

“Ten Problems for Manufacturing in the 2020s” booklet for Amazon Kindle, 2020; click on the cover to go to the dedicated Amazon listing page (Manufacturing Problems)