Article 3 Manufacturing Technology Trends Shaping Factories of the Future
By Insight UK / 21 Mar 2019
By Insight UK / 21 Mar 2019
Almost every industry relies on manufacturers to turn raw material into the items they need for daily operations. How else will retail stores, restaurants, transportation services and electronics companies get clothes, cups, cars and computers?
For years, manufacturing has been the backbone of economic development, supporting organisations that cater to consumer demand. And, while it used to be a slow and steady process, manufacturing is no longer limited to outdated industrial assembly lines. Today, new tools and solutions help factories meet greater demand at a lower cost. Some of these advancements include 3D printing, robotics and big data.
The International Federation of Robotics reported that 1.3 million industry robots will enter factories by 2018. It’s not surprising since advanced robotic systems are able to work faster and more accurately than humans while also being able to handle dangerous materials – resulting in higher quality and safety on the floor.
Even more impressive is the new trend of collaborative robots —highly adaptable and flexible “cobots” that work alongside human teammates. These machines are designed to learn as they work, increasing accuracy and productivity so the human counterparts can focus less on repetitive assembly tasks and more on strategising.
Another trend to look out for is robots sharing knowledge with other robots. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), connected machines can send and receive notifications, operation details and reports via the internet. This reduces downtime and increases production.
From assembling and welding to cutting and polishing, robotics in manufacturing are providing greater output with consistent quality and handling the tasks that are too difficult or unsafe for human workers.
3D printing, or additive manufacturing is the process of creating physical items by stacking materials such as plastic or resin in very thin layers. Although more than 30 years old, it’s still shaking up the manufacturing industry. According to 3DHubs, one of the main advantages of additive manufacturing is the speed at which parts can be produced compared to traditional manufacturing models. Now, designers can create prototypes in a matter of hours, whereas it used to take days. Having a faster turnaround during product development streamlines the overall manufacturing process. And, being able to verify that a design fits your needs ahead of time mitigates risks, saving time and money.
Another benefit of 3D printing in the manufacturing space is that it enables companies to create complex and custom designs. For example, you can supply jewellery stores with personalised products, increasing client satisfaction, or help physical therapists equip patients with specialised prosthetics, boosting recovery time. The goal is to one day be able to print specific designs on demand to provide better products, reduce excessive waste and inventory, and increase efficiency.
The global 3D printing market is expected to grow to $21 billion globally in 2021. Currently, the practice is used to produce highly specialized, low volume prototypes, but it’s important to keep an eye on the growing use cases that will arise as the process becomes more affordable and accessible.
As you start to integrate the latest technology trends into your existing business, take advantage of big data analytics to pinpoint what works, and doesn’t work, for you. For example, software and sensors help you precisely track the manufacturing process from start-to-finish to identify patterns and weak points. Using predictive analytics will help you know exactly when updates need to be made, when machines are expected to break down, when the market will be at its peak and how much inventory is needed for the following quarters. Additional benefits include:
In order to achieve this sort of visibility across the manufacturing processes, you need to decide what type of data you want to monitor. Having too much data or irrelevant data will only detract from your goals.
The manufacturing industry is experiencing a technology-driven revolution as new, intelligent tools and solutions continue to emerge. These advancements help manufacturers create higher quality goods and keep up with evolving consumer expectations.
Is your company ready for new technology? Read ‘The Industrial IoT: Why Building Your Smart Factory Can’t Wait.’