If you work in any kind of business that makes or produces a tangible product, then you will be aware of the changes going on in the industry, as manufacturing is another hot topic of discussion once again. It is going to be going through a massive change; the industry’s greatest change in over a hundred years. Because if you think about it, domestic jobs have practically vanished from a lot of countries as now, many, many businesses are going global. Jobs offshore are likely to be coming back ‘near’ shore. Plus, there is the impact that automation and ‘robots’ could have on workers each and every day. So for many businesses, they we way create and produce the goods that we sell, is not going to be the same again.
Many people have described the situation as a fourth industrial revolution. First, we had steam and mechanised machines. Next up was the use of electricity and the birth of mass production and assembly lines. The third revolution came in manufacturing when computers were starting to be introduced, and the beginning of automation was occurring. Now in the fourth revolution or Industry 4.0 as it is being known, is going to bring together computers and automation in a completely different way. With such smart advancements, artificial intelligence, and development of robotics, things will be changing dramatically. But what are some of the trends that we could be looking out for? What can we expect? Although some of it is going to be unknown, there are some things that are set to be big. So here are some of the trends in manufacturing to look out for.
1. Seeing Around Corners
With such improvements in technology, it means that the whole process, from design to manufacture. Technology will allow the design process to be simulated, as well as the production line before anything is actually created. So what will that mean for industry? It can save error and waste massively. If you’re able to see the whole process from start to finish, without actually using inventory, it will mean the mistakes, even small errors, that can be ironed out before you go into production. So you can realistic timelines to companies that you deliver to, as well as increase your profit as more can be produced in less time than ever before.
It can also work on an international scale too. So if you have an international business, then it will solve the problem for travel costs, as well as the time that it takes to implement it all. An engineer in a different country to you could consult with an engineer from a different country about the whole process, via augmented reality. Meaning it is like they are there, without having to physically be there. Any design problems or issues can be dealt with easily. So it can mean big changes in how products are brought to market; especially on a global scale.
2. Seeing Things in 3D
Something that has been on the horizon is 3D printing. Some manufacturers will have looked into this already and started to use it. But it is only going to get bigger and better from here on in. Because being able to create a single product in a seamless design, using a single machine, is going to give you many more options than before. It can also speed things up for the design process, which is going to be brilliant for the industry. Take, for example, a product that would normally need four or five pieces to be fitted to it. Being able to use 3D printing could mean that you can make the same thing but with only one piece. So there won’t be wasted time having to screw or weld those extra pieces together. It is a really monumental breakthrough!
3D printing can be a great thing for the environment too. As has been said, the whole process is streamlined and speeded up, without the use of additional materials or things like welding. So it can mean much less waste for materials. It can also mean the use of recycled plastics, as that is what a lot of products can be made from. The possibilities are quite endless with this kind of manufacturing too. Everything from medical equipment to children’s toys could be made. So it is going to change the face of manufacturing for many businesses.
3. Autopilot Manufacturing
As has been described, automation is incredibly important to the industry’s future. We wouldn’t be facing a new ‘revolution’ without the use of automation. Around half of manufacturing businesses use automation, and it is easy to see why. It improves things like accuracy and speed of production much more than we humans ever could do alone. So it makes sense that it is integrated to the manufacturing process and that it does help to improve it. Not only that, but it also allows production for things that might normally be a little unsafe for humans. So it can mean the impossible is now possible, which is fantastic news for business. But as time goes on, it make sense that the improvements are going to be bigger and better. Robotics are going to be much easier to produce themselves, as well as making them easy to programme and use in general. They will do what you want them to do, and that is all. So you know what you’re getting with them. The only thing is looking at how to get other tasks done. You’ll need new systems, robots, or humans. So it is important to see how it can all work together.
4. Using the Cloud
In addition to everything that has been mentioned above, there are going to be some big changes to factories and their environments change. There are going to be plenty of advancements in them as they are brought up to scratch with the use of cloud computing and using data. Smart sensors are also a good way to improve things in the manufacturing process. Smart sensors are able to help to convert any useful data into different ways to measure them. It could potentially mean having different machines communicating with each other, as well as recording specific statistics and information, and even improving the safety of things. If machines are able to take certain data to then shut themselves off, for example, it can make the workplace a much safer place to be potentially.
Using the cloud can also help companies and businesses to take and analyze certain information that affects how things are produced. More customer feedback, data, and results back from augmented reality will all have a big impact on how well things do, as well as research and development of the products or process. It will all help to cut costs and get customers what they want. So it is a must for innovation in this revolution that we are experiencing.
While this whole new phase of manufacturing might seem sudden, it has been a long time coming. It also allows for much more efficient companies, as well as a healthier economy and healthier businesses. Efficiency will mean more jobs and more money, as there will be much less waste. So going forward, the future is looking good for our businesses. The only question is; is your businesses ready for all of the changes that are going to happen? It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this and related topics to the new industrial revolution.