The manufacturing industry relies on efficiency. In modern times, industries interested in improving efficiencies and overall processes must adopt a mindset of innovation. As technology continues to advance, new developments are being made that the manufacturing industry simply can’t ignore. Moving through the second half of 2020, we’re reviewing a few key technology trends that are revolutionizing the manufacturing process.
Creating efficiencies and improving performance stems from the implementation of the right tools and practices. Technology contributes to these efforts by enabling manufacturing personnel to work smarter and with improved results in an increasingly digital world.
Robotic technology is nothing new to the manufacturing industry, however, advances in their abilities contribute to the growing usage and improved delivery models. Automation technology in the robotics sector in particular has been a key element in the growing trend of manufacturing tech. An entirely automated, AI-powered laborforce; digital workers relieve employees of time-intensive tasks such as inventory or assembly, with efficiency and accuracy. Unlike traditional bots, digital workers are task-centric, designed to serve as a fully-functional stand-in for human employees by performing and completing business functions from start to finish. By implementing automation, factories can reduce production lead times, waste, and costs. Moving forward we will see a greater emphasis on automation in the manufacturing industry, following suit of businesses like Tesla, who is leaning heavily on automation to dramatically improve processes.
Dramatically changing manufacturing factories’ production abilities, 3D printing technology is a trend we can expect to see more of in the coming years. By enabling organizations to produce cheaper and faster prototypes, this technology is allowing for more efficient production with reduced risk. 3D printing is a more cost-effective option than traditional processes, providing greater flexibility for designers to troubleshoot and test their products, which in turn contributes to improved commodities without added costs.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are continuously expanding their abilities and therefore their use cases. As the manufacturing industry becomes increasingly technological, particularly in a COVID environment, industry leaders are leaning heavily on contactless technology like AR and VR for training purposes. Utilizing VR technology, factories can provide workers with “hands-on” virtual training experiences in a safe environment. Through a VR platform, factories can close the skill gap by providing employees the opportunity to improve their skills and develop in a risk-free environment before taking their skills to the production floor. Similarly, with AR, factories can utilize remote maintenance processes that allow maintenance workers to carry out procedures from a remote location. Both technologies used in these instances contribute to more streamlined processes, improved accuracy, and greater efficiency.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a revolutionary addition to the world of manufacturing allowing for improved efficiencies, reduced waste, and increased profits. In fact, a survey by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) found that manufacturing companies who digitized their workflow demonstrated an 82% increase in efficiency. As the need for remote and contactless processes increases, the growing number of IoT connected devices are creating opportunities for a plethora of improved processes. Additionally, as organizations work to become more sustainable, energy consumption is a highly prevalent issue across the manufacturing industry. The IoT is helping to reduce this problem through the use of energy consumption pattern tracking. By doing this, management can take a granular look at how much energy each piece of equipment within their facility is using, and harness this information to make insightful decisions on how to reduce waste, leverage available efficiencies, and recognize impending equipment failures.
The usage of technology in the manufacturing industry will be the defining factor in rapid improvement. Leveraging the aforementioned tools can improve everything from training and production, to profit and sustainability. As the world continues to change, industry leaders must maintain a practice of adaptability to best meet customer and employee needs, and technology can help to achieve this.