Top Manufacturing Predictions for the Next Decade

January 14th, 2024

By Natalie Dookie

Roger Roach
Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA)

The manufacturing sector continues to surpass expectations. In preparation for Industry 4.0, local manufacturers are leveraging technology, building supply chain resilience, and adopting new strategies.
The future is now.

What are the trends shaping the future of manufacturing in Trinidad and Tobago?

Industry 4.0 is at our doorstep and the use of smart machines and robotics has started to creep into the manufacturing sphere. TTMA has a Productivity Committee; in partnership with The University of the West Indies and the MIC Institute of Technology, we are establishing a ‘Learning Factory’ to teach Industry 4.0 principles and practices. We are also teaming up with the Smart Automation Certification Alliance in the USA to issue Associate, Specialist, and Professional Certifications in Industry 4.0 to practitioners. While Industry 4.0 may displace some functions, it will also create new ones. New industries and jobs will emerge to manage this revolution.

Is interest in ‘green manufacturing’ growing locally?

Green manufacturing is an emerging industry. Manufacturers can access funding for green projects through the Green Fund, CARIRI and the IDB. Locally, we are seeing more companies shift their focus to ESG principles. Nevertheless, we can do more. We need economically viable strategies to create more buy-in to green manufacturing and the circular economy. You need a strong partnership between the State and the private sector to create the right environment.

How is the sector responding to supply chain shortages?

Nearshoring has emerged as a viable option. Due to increased labour costs, China is less cost-effective than it used to be, and its lead times are longer. If you depend on that market, you must now store an additional three months or 25% of inventory. While manufacturing in Caricom can save you as much as 20% in duties and other costs.

Is contract manufacturing trending?

Trinidad and Tobago has several key advantages, including a skilled industrialised workforce, managerial expertise and low energy costs. Many products sold throughout Caricom are manufactured in Trinidad and Tobago. We also manufacture several international brands locally, Serta, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Coors, and Guinness. This speaks to our manufacturing sector’s strength, resilience, robustness, and scale. There’s tremendous opportunity in Caricom for local products. However, we still have a lot of work to do. We need a robust public-private approach to create a more enabling investment climate for the sector.  TTMA works closely with SMEs in the manufacturing sector, and we encourage large businesses to adopt a mentorship role. Through our trade missions, we have successfully introduced ‘new to exporting’ companies to regional buyers, creating a new stream of foreign exchange income.

Are there improved HSEQ efforts in the manufacturing sector?

I am very proud of the products manufactured in Trinidad and Tobago. Our packaging, presentation, and merchandising can compete against international brands. We have the capability to deliver at very high standards. However, greater national consciousness is needed to recognise and purchase local brands. While we do not have a quality issue, we have a productivity challenge. There is a laissez-faire attitude to productivity which increases production costs. That is why we are rejuvenating the Manufacturing Advisory Council; we are working to ensure that the skills needed for the sector’s growth are taught.

How is the sector preparing to meet the needs of the future customer?

The future will be cashless. Businesses need to ensure that they can receive electronic payments. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies developed websites and e-commerce channels. We have made tremendous strides in this area, and I expect to see more of that. Businesses must also be prepared to meet customer needs and ensure that their service level agreement matches expectations.

What are the skills required to support manufacturing of the future?

We need more electrical and PLC technicians to service and maintain machinery. To embrace Industry 4.0, we need the managerial, technical, and engineering skills to do so. There is a skills shortage, and we are presently conducting a study on this to present to the National Training Agency and the Ministry of Education.

In five years, how will the manufacturing sector change?

As the cost of electricity increases, we will have to maintain our energy advantage by moving some of our energy inputs into renewables to keep production costs down. Guyana’s population is expected to double within the next ten years, and this market will need servicing. We must position ourselves to sell more into that market. We also need to strengthen our agreements with the European Union and capitalise on those with the Americas. As we transition from oil and gas, manufacturing will play a more prominent role in our economy – more entrepreneurs will enter this space, and there will be increased investment. We expect the sector to contribute 40% of GDP in five to ten years.