Technological advances have permeated every industry and niche, and manufacturing makes no exception. Investing in technology has become a matter of survival for manufacturing companies as competition in this space has become more intense than ever before. Businesses that prioritize innovation and embrace a tech-forward approach canine their operations and improve the productivity and performance of products and services while lowering costs. As a result, they are better positioned to withstand fluctuations in the market and adapt to the ever-changing customer behavior.
This stands true for all areas of manufacturing. For instance, automotive manufacturers use automation at nearly every stage of the production process to increase productivity, safety, and efficiency. Similarly, the textile industry uses advanced software, robotic printing, or servo motor solutions to operate, boost production capacity, and keep up with the soaring demand.
Technology is the only way forward for the manufacturing industry. But what innovations should manufacturers focus on if they want to remain relevant and stay ahead of the competition? While new solutions are being developed all the time, a few technologies seem to dominate the manufacturing environment at the moment, so let’s explore them one by one.
Artificial intelligence sounds like something that belongs in a Sci-Fi movie – one that doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending. However, over the years, AI has gone from a utopia to a commonplace technology leveraged by numerous manufacturing businesses.
As the name implies, artificial intelligence tries to mimic human behavior and intelligence by employing algorithms and machine learning processes. So, AI’s purpose is not to replace humans and take over the world, as some fear, but to collect and use data to provide human-like interactions and facilitate a wide range of tasks. In manufacturing, AI applications include handling logistic tasks such as scheduling and tracking shipments, predicting production demand or maintenance needs, preventing bottlenecks, etc.
Robots have become common in the manufacturing industry as they have taken on the burden of performing repetitive tasks from human operators, allowing them to shift their time and effort toward more productive roles. The manufacturing industry employs all types of robots, from articulated machines that use smart servo solutions to SCARA robots or Cartesian robots.
However, not so long ago, these robots were mostly used by larger manufacturing companies that could afford to invest in this type of equipment. However, ongoing tech advances have made robots much more affordable, becoming accessible to smaller manufacturing facilities, where they perform various functions, including assembling, spot welding, or material handling.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is not exactly a novel technology as it was invented in the ’80s. However, the technology has picked up in recent years due to increased investment in research and development. This has enabled manufacturers to produce various elaborate 3-dimensional objects using digital models. Using 3D printing instead of traditional manufacturing processes can considerably speed up production times while reducing waste.
As with robots, 3D printing was expensive, so not all manufacturers had access to this technology. However, these days, 3D printers are used by all manufacturing businesses, big and small.
Augmented reality refers to the integration of computer-generated content in real-world settings. In other words, AR changes how we perceive reality by merging the virtual and physical worlds.
AR technology can be extremely useful in manufacturing, allowing workers to access all data and information about their devices and enhancing human and machine collaboration. They can check parameters such as temperature or moisture levels or spot mechanical issues in due time. This way, manufacturers can reduce the time needed to identify malfunctions and maintain their equipment properly. Additionally, AR is often applied in training so workers get acquainted with the machines they’ll be using and develop the necessary skills in a safe environment.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things is the term used to describe a collection of objects, instruments, or equipment that use sensors, software, and other tech innovations to connect and communicate via the Internet without human interaction. In the manufacturing sector, this concept is called the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) and can assist manufacturers in numerous ways.
Through data collection, the IIOT technology captures valuable insights about each piece of equipment and the operating conditions in a facility. Therefore, manufacturing workers can spot and address issues early on, stay on top of predictive maintenance, manage inventory, and monitor the supply chain. This translates into a more efficient production process, reduced downtime, and a safer work environment.
Nanotechnology, also referred to as nanotech, is a science branch that deals with studying and manipulating matter at nanoscale, between 1 and 100 nanometres, for industrial purposes. Energy saving and waste reduction are the main benefits of nanotechnology in chemical manufacturing.
The technology was mostly used to produce materials, structures, and devices in the aerospace and biomedical sectors. Over the years, its applications have expanded significantly, spreading across many industrial areas such as automotive engineering, information and communication, food technology, etc.
Manufacturing plays a crucial role in the global economy, as it ensures the production of a broad range of goods necessary for everyday life while also creating job opportunities and increasing living standards. The technologies listed above are bound to bring positive change to the manufacturing industry, providing numerous benefits for workers and consumers.