Technology in the manufacturing industry helps us push the boundaries of human capabilities—advanced robotics, big data, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing, and more all help us do exactly that. Pushing the boundaries of human capability allows us to revolutionize plant productivity and lower the cost of production, ultimately making us more competitive.
We have identified five technologies that are making waves in the manufacturing industry. Read on to learn about each one.
The Internet of Things
While the internet we all know and love is comprised of a network of computers, the Internet of Things (IoT) is comprised of a network of interrelated computing devices, which can include digital machines, objects, and even people in addition to computers. The IoT extends internet connectivity to physical devices and everyday objects, and when applied to an industrial manufacturing context, it can be applied for predictive and proactive maintenance, better supply-chain management, cross-facility operations, real-time plant monitoring, and safety. All of these applications allow plant managers to increase productivity by improving existing processes and reducing downtime. By next year, IoT-enabled devices are expected to break 25 billion in number.
Not only can IoT-enabled devices communicate with other IoT-enabled devices over the internet, they can also be remotely monitored and controlled. This is what would allow equipment to communicate data through RFID and GPS sensors to supply-chain teams, take inventory, and predict events. The equipment could also assist in scheduling preventative maintenance—and since routine maintenance is a key component of all plant operations, this could potentially be one of the greatest benefits of IoT-enabled technology for the industry.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has long been portrayed as the key to a dark, dystopian future, but that’s not the case at all when it comes to AI in the manufacturing industry. Robotics in manufacturing have existed for a long time, and AI will only enhance their ability to perform, minimizing error and increasing productivity in the process. Most experts peg AI and machine learning as the most likely next step in technological advancement for the manufacturing industry. More specifically, AI can be used to quickly analyze, and subsequently act on, data from the system.
Until now, automation and mechanization with robotics has depended upon pre-programmed, unintelligent processes. The future holds the opportunity for robots and humans to interact, bringing about smart, accurate solutions for manufacturing processes and systems. One of the greatest benefits for AI in industrial robotics is that it allows people working in industrial jobs to focus their time and energy on more complex tasks like research and development, while smart robots perform the mundane tasks.
We deal with large volumes of data these days, which means we need improved solutions for analyzing this data. The rise of big data analytics has provided this solution, allowing manufacturers to streamline processes and improve products. According to industry surveys, 68% of American manufacturers have already begun investing in big data analytics for their companies. Knowledge is power, and power turns into lower costs and higher yield on this front.
Aside from the fact that 3-D printing is an absolute spectacle of futuristic manufacturing, it’s set to make a major impact on some of the biggest industries, such as aerospace, mining, automobile, and construction, just to name a few. This technology allows manufacturers to digitally design a physical product with computer-aided design (CAD).
3-D printing technology can produce products made from rubber, nylon, plastic, glass, and metal. They can also create unique shapes and designs that other machines cannot, making them more desirable for most manufacturers, especially since all functionality is rolled into one piece of equipment. This prevents manufacturers and plant managers from having to purchase and maintenance several pieces of equipment, which ultimately saves time and money.
Virtual reality (VR) technology is not just for video games—it also has several viable applications for the manufacturing industry, and the capabilities of VR now are astounding. First, this technology erases the need to build expensive product models, because everything can be created and tested virtually. This means that money can be spent more wisely, which increases ROI.
Product models for certain industries are expensive and time-consuming to create, one perfect example being the automobile industry. Rather than spending time and resources building physical models of new cars, the automobile industry can now virtually test their vehicles in the early stages before investing in the materials and labor needed to actually construct the car and test it for tolerances, design, and safety features. VR will most directly affect plant managers who will be faced with the task of evaluating plant efficiency, workflows, daily processes, and training protocols.
All in All
These technologies have a huge opportunity to make waves in the manufacturing industry that will ripple out for decades. The future is now, and we are looking forward to how these technologies will improve efficiency and profitability for the industry at large.
To learn more about ProcessBarron and the industries we serve, contact us today.