5 Emerging Technology Trends For Manufacturers In 2016

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The manufacturing industry is in the midst of their fourth industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 is set to take the industry by storm as new emerging technologies continue to streamline business practices and allow manufacturers to get more out of the data they’re gathering. Some technologies have had a profound impact on the industry already but as 2016 comes around, more manufacturers will begin to take full advantage of all the applications these technologies have to offer.

We will be discussing the top 5 trends in manufacturing technology and why they are creating so much buzz.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive Analytics has been a manufacturers dream ever since humans began manufacturing products for sale to the mass market. Many businesses have tried over the years to predict customer demand and follow historical trends in order to reduce over production and other costly mistakes. However, these predictions were basically just a company’s best guess, and were only backed up by the little bit of data they were able to analyze themselves. But this is all about to change.

Now data can be gathered and analyzed much more efficiently than ever before. New software and sensors allow for precise predictions based on data captured through all points of the production. Machines can now even predict when they are about to fail so the manufacturer can schedule maintenance by urgency rather than relying on periodic maintenance schedules. Furthermore, demand can be tracked and forecasted much more accurately. This allows manufacturers to only produce the amount of product necessary to keep up with demand.

Advanced Robots

Automation has been a hot topic in 2015 and will only continue to become more popular throughout the New Year. Advanced robotic systems have become more sophisticated, allowing manufacturers to program their robots to perform virtually any task imaginable. Also, these robotic systems have become more user-friendly, making it much easier for smaller job shops to implement this technology. With the skills gap continuing to affect the manufacturing industry, manufacturers that make use of automated systems will be able to keep up with demand.

Collaborative robots are also making their way into small and medium manufacturing facilities. These robots are able to work side-by-side human employees. The Co-Bots, as many call them, can either assist employees or take over repetitive tasks to free the workforce up to work on tasks that require critical thinking and problem solving. It can be expected that more manufacturers will invest into this technology in the coming year to help offset the skills gap and compete globally.

Smart Facility & Products

Manufacturers have experimented with the smart facility throughout 2015, but many aren’t taking full advantage of all the applications the technology has to offer. This is partly due to the lack of experience these manufacturers have working with these technologies, but also the digital infrastructure that is necessary to get the most out of this technology was largely non-existent. More tech companies have made an effort to create the digital infrastructure needed for this technology to flourish. In 2016, it is almost guaranteed that more manufacturers large and small alike, will realize it has become a necessity to work this new technology.

Smart products is another area that got a lot of attention in 2015. Manufacturers can now gather data throughout the entire life-cycle of their product by adding small sensors to the product throughout the manufacturing process. This technology can give manufacturers even more insight into how their products are used, how and why they failed, and where they end up once they are discarded.

3D Printing

This technology has been rated one of the top technologies to watch for quite some time now. The technology is over 30 years old, but recent advancements have brought additive manufacturing to the forefront of the manufacturing industry. Metal 3d printing, faster prints, and more precise scans, have had manufacturers watching these developments very closely.

Manufacturers see how this technology can completely revolutionize their industry.  Aerospace manufacturers like Airbus are already exploring in-house metal 3d printing and they are not alone. Companies are extremely excited about the potential of this technology, and continue to investigate how they can use it to improve the manufacturing process. NASA has produced a 3D printed rocket engine that shows this technology can create end-use products that can perform just as well as components that were traditionally manufactured. We can expect 2016 to hold even more surprises for 3D printing technology.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality is an interesting piece of technology that can seriously increase the efficiency of manufacturers as well as their entire workforce. Products like Google Glass have had a hard time catching on in manufacturing facilities when they were first introduced. Even with the value they added, many small companies could not justify the cost of the device. This could all change in 2016 and beyond as products like this continue to drop in price and offer more value.

AR systems can scan and check inventory just by having an employee wearing a system, look at the packaging. This can greatly increase the accuracy and speed in which inventory can be organized and sorted. Also, tablets and smart phones can use AR to instruct an employee on how to fix equipment if a qualified engineer is not available. With on-demand support, and step by step instructions sent directly to a smart device, it can offer your entire workforce instant instruction and knowledge. Training can also be streamlined and a new employee could have access to all the information they will ever need.

These technologies have all been in the works for quite some time. However, as they continue to mature, manufacturers and businesses will have an easier time implementing all of these technologies. In 2016, it can be expected that more manufacturers will begin to feel comfortable taking advantage of all that this technology has to offer. A wide-spread adoption of this technology will lead to a true industrial revolution that is driven by digital technology.

Additional Resources:

Augmented Reality: https://mfgtalkradio.com/virtual-augmented-realitys-impact-on-manufacturing/

Big Data: https://mfgtalkradio.com/manufacturers-finding-value-in-their-data/

Smart Facility: https://mfgtalkradio.com/creating-the-smart-factory-that-works-for-you/

Automation: https://mfgtalkradio.com/automation-education-for-21st-century-manufacturing/

3D Printing: https://mfgtalkradio.com/nasas-3d-printed-rocket-engine-test-was-a-success/