Top 6 Manufacturing Technology Trends
Globally, manufacturing contributes over £10 trillion to the overall GDP of the globe.
Imagine a world where every manufactured product is better, cleaner, safer. This will be thanks to factories that are run by machines, that run themselves, that monitor themselves.
Machines that analyse other machines and the entire factory. Helping workers improve productivity and reducing costs. This is the industry 4.0.
The following technologies are already becoming ingrained in our everyday lives. With industry 4.0, manufacturing technology will start to incorporate these as standard over the coming years.
1. Robotics & Automation
Artificial intelligence and machine learning is enabling robots to do tasks that until now, only human eyes, minds and hands could handle. The marriage of robotics and artificial intelligence is the next giant leap in manufacturing technology.
We used to have to teach robots how to do certain tasks. Now, machine learning is helping the robots figure it out for themselves. Scary. Although this won’t necessarily mean “robots are taking our jobs!”
Collaborative robots, a.k.a cobots, are designed to work alongside humans. Making the workplace safer and more productive. Whilst autonomous robots require running, maintaining, and controlling.
There will be less need of unskilled workforce, however there will be a huge requirement for a skilled workforce. Jobs have always been replaced by automation, this opens doors for new job roles. Much like how the lowly paid bowling pinsetter job was the norm before automated pinsetters were introduced in the 1950s.
Robotics and automation let us use the creativity of humans, but also the capabilities of the mechanics and technology. Manufacturing technology has progressed to systems that allow an entire facility to communicate and operate harmoniously.
Manufacturers are approaching robotics companies with challenges; asking them to find a way to increase productivity or find a way to make a process a little bit easier for humans to work alongside.
With robotics designs taking over simple and menial tasks, humans can focus on the path forward. Utilising our creativity to realise the factory of tomorrow.
2. Big Data
In the future, manufacturing plants that can think, not just produce, will lead the industry. Using big data to highlight areas to improve operations will continue to increase exponentially.
Using big data to make small improvements can result in significant improvements in the profitability for a business. Big data can be used to get a wider view of the environment in which they operate.
Most organisations don’t realise the value that is in the data sets that they create; there are endless possibilities inside. Some organisations still aren’t even aware of the data sets that they are creating.
The successful organisations are the ones that are making changes to the way that they deliver products to customers, and the data will underpin that to a huge extent.
When combined with data science, organisations will see trends within the business that they never knew existed. Being able to act on these trends and insights are really transforming successful organisations.
Start utilising big data now. Even if you don’t think you have an immediate need for it, cloud services now provide such a cost-effective platform that it is a great place to start storing data.
5G is going to help manufacturers build the factory of the future!
The speed of 5G will help manufacturers track analytics in real time, allowing for better control of resources as well as allowing for changes to be made instantly.
Latency will no longer be a problem when there is so many moving parts and IoT sensors, all transmitting vast amounts of data. 5G is able to process data almost immediately, driving performance and better outcomes.
Industry 4.0 will leverage connectivity to disrupt many new levels of efficiencies and performance. Flexible manufacturing will require the adoption of 5G technology.
Leveraging huge data sets to make more decisions, but also allowing intelligence to take control of tasks such as predictive maintenance and process management, as well as control.
4. VR & AR
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is being used more and more to improve the quality and efficiency of employee training.
Humans can train in environments that are otherwise impossible, too risky, and too expensive in the real world.
Studies are also showing that students have 30% better knowledge retention 2 weeks after training with VR, when compared to traditional education methods.
It is also worth noting that workplace deaths are on the rise, pointing to more training needed to help make workers safer. VR & AR will be a helpful tool in this battle to save lives.
In the near future humans will be able to plan an idea in the real world, then move over to the virtual world to tinker with the design in ways that would not usually be possible.
Imagine the possibilities!
5. Edge Computing
The ‘edge’ is the place where end devices access the rest of the network, things like phones, laptops, industrial robots, and sensors.
IOT devices gather so much data that sheer volume requires larger and more expensive connections. Smart factories generate millions of gigabytes of data.
The nature of the work of these IOT devices is also creating a need for much faster connections between the data centre or cloud and the devices.
Edge devices will collect, sort and perform preliminary analysis of the data. It will then send it along to where it needs to go; centralized applications or some form of long-term storage, either on prem or in the cloud.
One of the downsides can be security. With data being collected and analysed at the edge, its important to include security for the IOT devices that connect to the edge devices and for the edge devices themselves. They contain valuable data, but they are also network elements that if exploited, could compromise other devices that contain stores of valuable assets. It is important that the edge devices themselves don’t become a single point of failure.
6. 3D Printing
In today’s world, you could have a hip replacement from a 3D printed bone, or use a 3D printed bionic arm!
One barrier to entry for many manufacturers currently is the cost of 3D printing. In the future, this will change.
Do you remember flat screen TVs? Or any other emerging technology? At first the price is always astronomical!
With time, the market gets saturated, materials become more abundant, and prices go down.
High strength and high temperature plastics are likely to see widespread adoption in the future.
There is even a company in the US called Relativity that is 3D printing rockets for use in space! They are hoping to be able to cut the cost of manufacturing a rocket by as much as 80%!
Currently, the type of material that can be printed is limited, and so not every industry will benefit from the 3D printing trend. However, due to the technology being used for an increasing amount of manufactured goods, it had to be mentioned of the list.
Due to the technology being used for an increasing amount of manufactured goods, it had to be mentioned of the list.