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Now more than ever, manufacturers are introducing new manufacturing technologies in their factories. With competition growing stiffer in the manufacturing industry, the dogma of the twenty-first century is that change is the only way to maintain relevance.
The most dominant of changes to date is manufacturers move to shift production towards automation and smart factories. More and more technologies are emerging in the field of manufacturing, and most companies are struggling to keep up with the fast pace. To those who manage to keep up, the promise of lower production cost, reduced labor cost, and quality products tailored to customer needs await on the other side.
In this evolution craze, industry 4.0 technologies will be in the front seat moving in the direction of these advancements. With technologies becoming rooted such as the internet of things, automation, condition monitoring, and predictive maintenance trends, just to mention a few, it is hard to see the full picture. One thing is clear though, at the moment, we can expect further changes to enter the world of manufacturing.
Here are some of the trends we expect to see more of moving forward.
As a solution to problems in the manufacturing industry, such as lack of tech-savvy workers, many manufacturers are adopting automation as a way of keeping up with the changes in the industry. Current customers are empowered and informed, and this puts a higher emphasis on quality than in the past years.
Factory automation is one of the largest drivers of the fourth industrial revolution, and there are many reasons why. Automation solves a lot of problems facing manufacturers nowadays. Issues like the high cost of labor can be addressed by automating your production process. The quality of the finished products can be greatly increased with automation.
Although there are some concerns associated with the process, like high initial set up cost and the vulnerability of an automated production system to outside forces like cybercriminals, the gains outweigh the risks, and we can expect to see more factories join the caravan in the coming years.
With virtual reality, digital models of products can thoroughly be checked, flaws can be identified, and improvements can be made to ensure that the final product is of the highest quality in the market. This helps save investment capital that would go towards trial products. With virtual reality, customer-specific designs can also be developed.
Augmented reality, on the other hand, helps enhance the view of objects in the real world so that a worker can have a composite view of the immediate world. With such an enhanced view of the physical world around the user, better informed decisions can be made and the production process can be greatly improved.
The mixed reality, on the other hand, is an interaction between physical and virtual objects. Improvements in structures can be made with mixed reality.
With this kind of technology, manufacturers have a virtual version of either a component of a machine, a full machine, or an entire process. Digital twins are a great resource in machine learning because they provide real data on how the physical machine would behave under different conditions.
Simulations can be run to test the limits of the physical machines under a wide array of parameters with digital twins. Once harmful limits are established, the physical machine can be run on optimal conditions.
Digital twins can also be used for predictive maintenance where machine failures can be predicted and action taken before the actual breakdown.
These two fields of manufacturing technologies have historically been run separately in the manufacturing industry, but now manufacturers are integrating the two to gain better control of the process.
There is complete monitoring of the whole production process with IT and OT integrated. All of the parts of the process are connected, enabling harmony and ensuring that each decision made at every level is informed and geared to some specific goal. The result is improved customer service, improved quality of the product, and a more customer-focused manufacturing approach.
Collaborative robots are a new breed of robot that can function in a shared space with other robots or humans to increase effectiveness.
It was difficult for traditional robots to manage various tasks effectively, but now with the use of cobots, the efficiency is greatly improved as humans or other robots can step in and supplement a process. This is made possible by the fact that cobots are safer around humans in comparison to their traditional counterparts.
Small batch manufacturing can now allow manufacturers to produce goods customized for customers instead of producing a high volume of units of a single product that end up stacked in boxes in their warehouses. This is made possible with the availability of information and adopting a demand-driven approach to manufacturing.
Mixed manufacturing, on the other hand, is setting up your production process such that it is possible to produce different models of your product without changeovers. This lowers the production cost along with giving you a competitive edge.
With the adoption of some or all the strategies above, manufacturers are shifting their production processes to digital and smart manufacturing to leverage the advantages of a smart factory.