When it comes to manufacturing technology, we’ve already run the gamut from the Flintstones of the stone age to the Jetsons of the space age. Sci-fi inventions that seemed quirky in the Jetsons shows of the 1960s are now reality: robot maids, push-button appliances, holograms, digital diaries, work computers with human personalities, wireless house-control systems, mechanical pets, and clones.
And there are more amazing things on the horizon. Innovations like drones, 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) have been steadily developing along their own, albeit sometimes parallel, paths. But as these technologies mature, it’s looking more and more like they will converge into an industrial “toolbox” that can make a far greater impact on the manufacturing process than any of them could have separately.
- Digital transformation will accelerate. We’re already seeing autonomous drones and human-robot collaboration. For instance, drones with autonomous navigation capability can be used to inspect equipment in the field or even take inventory in large warehouses by reading electronic inventory tags. See the AU presentation “The Factory of the Future . . .” 1
- IoT – The internet of things is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects and people that have unique identifiers (UIDs). The UIDs enable data transfer over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. IBM describes it in “The Internet of Things delivers the data . . .” 2 Embedded sensors or actuators in machines and physical objects are used to collect data.
- Artificial intelligence – Machines can be “taught” to stop production of an inferior product before it’s even made, a process explained on ManufacturingGlobal.com.3 They can also suggest solutions to increase responsiveness and manufacturing efficiency through scalability and production simulation and steering. As the amount of data that manufacturers produce increases, they need a way to analyze and use it, or it’s not of much use. Manufacturing.net has a superb forward-looking article on this.4 Artificial intelligence can manage massive amounts of data and even give insight into new business opportunities.
- Cyber security – Threats from cyber criminals continue to cost businesses big dollars in technology spending. As a company’s digital footprint grows, so does its exposure. Manufacturers – and most businesses – are seeking new ways to secure their operations.
- 3D Printing – Also referred to as “additive manufacturing,” 3D printing creates a physical object by layering – adding – material based on a digital model, rather than the older technology of cutting away – removing – material to create an object. Rapid prototyping using polymers and powdered metals, ultrasonic welding and metal casting are already taking place. With the use of technology, manufacturing is becoming better, stronger, faster and less expensive. Wharton School revealed interesting insights on this through its interview with Richard D’Aveni in “How 3D printing is transforming mass manufacturing.” 5
- Blockchain – By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology was originally the underpinning of the digital currency Bitcoin. As a September Blockgeeks article describes, the technology community is now finding other types of digital value for this shared and continually reconciled ledger (updated in blocks of 10 minutes) for financial transactions and other “things” of value.6 You don’t have to know how the blockchain works to use it, just know that its records are public and verifiable and not located in a central location where it might be hacked.
- Increased partnerships and collaboration. The demand for making products faster and more economically has resulted in collaborative efforts among established manufacturers and smaller operators. Whether it’s financial investment, connected BIM workflows, access to Internet Protocol, or agreements to share resources, partnering with congruent businesses brings knowledge and skills together in a cost-effective way.
- Workforce education – Keeping up with these trends is tough when digital skills are a scarce resource. Forward-thinking manufacturers are investing in building a workforce of the future. There is increased investment in internal digital training and external, using focused experts found in private business (ie. Applied Software in-person training or LiveLab Learning) and universities.
If it’s not time to retire – Jane! Turn this crazy thing off! Jane!! – it’s time to embrace the remarkable technology sweeping through the manufacturing industry. If you’d like guidance negotiating the maze of innovations, contact Applied Software. The Applied Manufacturing Technology Group stays current on the latest developments and the software that drives the industry. Partner with them and become empowered to transform your business.Contact Us
- 1 “The Factory of the Future: The Industry 4.0 Reference Factory”; AU presentation, November 2018.
- 2 “The Internet of Things delivers the data. AI powers the insights;” IBM Watson Internet of Things, 2018.
- 3 “Top 10 manufacturing trends for 2019”; Manufacturing Global.com, December 2018.
- 4 “IoT Becomes IIoT . . . and It Is Changing Everything”; Manufacturing.net, November 2018.
- 5 “How 3D Printing is Transforming Mass Manufacturing,” Sirius XM interview and podcast; Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, December 2018.
- 6 “What is Blockchain Technology? A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners”; Blockgeeks.com, September 2018.