The world is changing, and 2018 is likely to become the year the manufacturing industries adopt many of the innovations and trends once confined to the novels of Philip K Dick and Arthur C Clarke. It seems that the future has finally caught up with us; changing the way we work, communicate and manage our businesses.
Manufacturing is thriving in North America – offering employment to over 12 million full-timers, having brought in $6 trillion in nominal gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2017 alone. Technology is already playing its part in making our factories more efficient, cost-effective, safe, and easier to manage. The move towards greater automation is the unavoidable flow of change.
We’ll be exploring the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), robots and automation, 3D printing, intelligent decision-making and inbound marketing in this article; posing the question of how these revolutionary innovations and trends can transform our manufacturing processes.
New technologies are offering new modes of product development, innovations in operation and a revolution in how we serve our customers.
But adoption of such technologies isn’t without its challenges: we may struggle to upgrade our legacy systems, keep hold of workforce talent, and handle the vast quantities of Big Data that is produced by such developments.
Here are some of the answers to the questions that these changes inevitably present.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
The term “Internet of Things” refers to the cyber-connected world – our heating can speak to our smartphones, our washing machine can order our washing-powder, and the refrigerator can fill itself with food.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) therefore, means that our machines will communicate with us (and to other devices), providing us with data that we can use to apply efficiencies; making production more productive.
The first thing that people often say is that their machinery is too old, and it would be entirely unrealistic to upgrade – there’s not a computer-chip on the whole floor, they whisper. While this is arguably true in many cases, it need not be a barrier to installing the IIoT on the factory floor.
Inexpensive machine monitoring sensors can be easily attached to old-school analog equipment: connecting devices with software applications, which enable manufacturers to gather information, so that they can come to real-time decisions, based on accurate real-time facts.
IIoT functionality can facilitate inter-machine communication – logging production stats, and even monitoring equipment and production lines for safety; identifying any problems that may occur.
IIoT can track work quotas and determine optimum times for equipment maintenance, ensuring the longevity of your machines.
IIoT will, ultimately, revolutionize the factory floor, helping it to be a safer, more productive environment.
Automation is nothing new in manufacturing – machines have been completing technical and repetitive tasks for decades, and are due to become more in demand in 2018.
International spending on robotics is predicted to reach $67 billion by 2025, with almost a third of that being allocated by the manufacturing industries.
Robotic automation will help manufacturers to achieve work of high precision, productivity, and safety. Robots can work in hazardous and inhospitable environments, tackling the challenges that human workers would rather avoid. With the advent of voice and image recognition, robots can integrate into the workplace, duplicating complex human tasks with high levels of consistency.
Robots are already busy at work on the floors in the healthcare and food manufacturing industries, as well as tackling the jobs that are too dangerous for humans in our ever-growing world of mitigation. Environments that require clean rooms (such as in pharmaceutical plants) and lights-out facilities will operate around the clock, with robots at the helm.
Robots can take the humdrum, repetitive tasks; providing new pathways for our human workforce, creating new and different jobs. Forrester Research estimates that 15 million new jobs will evolve over the coming decade thanks to the opening up of the industry that robotics and automation will provide.
It might sound like a gimmick on a smartphone, but AR is set to change the way in which we develop new products – testing different manufacturing scenarios before a product goes into full production.
AR tools can simulate the production phase, drawing attention to potential problems which could halt production. It will help to ensure that the manufacturing process produces precisely what you hoped to create.
AR can also help with inventory tracking, worker training and provide insight into a company’s optimal operational standards.
Again, what might seem like a short-term trend, provides a unique, low-cost method of creating prototypes. 3D printing is already an indelible part of many manufacturing businesses, but 2018 will see more companies adopting these machines to improve their product development practices, resultantly bringing new products to the market more quickly.
The applications for 3D printing are broad, offering significant implications to high-volume production lines, in the creation of a full spectrum of devices, from toys to medical devices.
Intelligent Decision Making
Machine monitoring brings with it enormous volumes of data that requires processing for it to be significant.
The success of machine monitoring is in a company’s ability to translate that data into significant indicators of a production’s output.
Trying to track too much information is counter-productive, so companies such as FreePoint can offer complete solutions for discerning, communicating and controlling processes, so that you can make decisions that have a positive impact on the production floor, in real-time.
The days of the flyer, the trade ad, attending trade shows, and sending out direct mail aren’t entirely defunct, but they’re certainly on the wane.
Original content on websites, social media engagement, and search engine optimization are all low-cost ways of communicating your marketing message to the masses.
Online marketing is all about engagement – attracting potential customers through original content and encouraging interaction. It can be quantifiably successful, undoubtedly more so than old-school leaflet drops.
The internet hasn’t just changed the way we communicate, socialize, and consume our entertainment, but it is having an impact on how we run our businesses.
Perhaps this all sounds a little too much to take on-board all in one go. And this is where the experts at FreePoint Technologies can help. We have a range of solutions that can help drag your manufacturing business out of the 20th century, and into the new, exciting world of 2018.