TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Sometimes you don't notice a major trend until it's on top of you and all around you.
"Things are happening," is often the best observation a person can muster amid the daily hurricane of work.
That's one of the reasons for this annual conference, now in its 54th year. The Management Briefing Seminars were created to bring far-flung engineers and executives together to compare observations. And that's why its value has always been the sprawl of its topics: economic outlooks, manufacturing innovations, political worries, labor issues, trends in electronics and tooling.
Based on conversations I've had with some of this year's speakers, you can be prepared to hear at least about these three macro trends:
1. A new cost squeeze is coming. Sales are soft, profit margins are thinning. And for various reasons, such as the addition of tariff costs, supply chains will be pressed to get leaner and cut overhead and product prices.
2. AI is coming at us like a tsunami, and everywhere at once, including: factory shop floors, vehicle cabin cameras, supply chain management, machinery maintenance, vehicle safety systems, autonomous steering systems. Automotive companies will be rushing to digitize.
3. Lighter, lighter, lighter. You may think you know all about lightweighting. But the industry is just getting warmed up as automakers press for more gains — driven increasingly by non-U.S. market issues. You're going to hear about material advances that will make the pounds melt away. Listen for this week's new bonus word: Float.