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2017 Manufacturing: A Year In Review

The political landscape of 2017 has been a portrait of peaks and troughs. Brexit in the UK presents potential possibilities for trade deals with the US and beyond, and (love him or hate him) President Trump’s tempestuous first year in office was preceded with promises to rebuild North America’s industrial sector. Whether his ambitious promises yield fruit is yet to be seen, and it’s rather too easy to get lost in the crowd hysteria that big change conjures. However, significant transformation brings significant opportunities, and in the manufacturing sector particularly, we’ve seen increased adoption of digital technologies, harboring a new dawn in manufacturing processes.

In the same way that the Industrial Revolution had a major impact on manufacturing and society, digital transformation within manufacturing houses is set to change the way we produce and cater to our customers. Not since Henry Ford developed mass-production manufacturing have we seen changes like those that 2017 has exposed us to; but “digital” represents a move away from mass-production, toward a leaner, less wasteful, bespoke, and customized production approach.

However, only 5% of manufacturing executives are satisfied with their existing digital strategies, or even recognize the importance of this digital revolution. Digitization helps to overcome the “Seven Wastes” of lean manufacturing by making more affordable the bespoke production approach; as opposed to over-producing, under-engaging employees and keeping customers waiting while we produce against demand.

Internet of Things (IoT)

At the heart of the change in manufacturing processes in 2017 was the implementation of IoT processes, providing live reporting of incremental production data, defect and damage.

By effectively connecting our analog (and digital) machines to monitoring networks, companies have found an essential, competitive edge in consistency, efficiency, employee engagement, and instant visualization of project progress; yielding benefits to the manufacturing process and to the customer, as the price of wastage drops as a result of digital monitoring.

Industry 4.0 and mass customization

Scary as it sounds, Industry 4.0 presents a reverie of the interconnected factory, and this has developed exponentially in 2017. Machines are online and capable of making decisions.

Now, don’t run for the hills, here – this is good! Industry 4.0 presents a hybrid approach of actual and virtual content-producing warehouses, freeing up workforce to focus on mass customization which can directly react to consumer demand.

IoT and Industry 4.0 are developing the way we interact with our customers post-sale, by providing immediate and consistent support online.

Machine Learning

AI is nothing new – IBM’s supercomputer defeated the world’s best chess player over ten years ago, after all. Advanced algorithms are collecting data on the factory floor, performing skilled labor, and predicting consumer behavior, so that we, the manufacturer, can better cater to their needs. Smart factories can increase production capacity by 20% by gleaning live information from integrated IT systems. And FreePoint Technologies can help!

Quality becomes more consistent as machine learning determines the factors affecting service and quality of product.

Growth

Manufacturing continues to be an essential contributor to Canada’s GDP; providing 1.7 million quality, well-paid jobs, and contributing over 10% of Canada’s overall GDP (around $174 billion).

The manufacturing industry, therefore, has massive potential for strengthening Canada’s economic future. We have the skills, innovation and exports of more that $354 billion each year, which represents 68% of Canada’s entire merchandise exports. Competition is healthy and success breeds success: where our industry grows, we attract new investment.

Growth is dependent upon continued innovation, and the more we adopt new technologies, the more our healthy manufacturing sector continues to grow.