As we enter a new decade, we are bound to see new changes in the manufacturing industry as innovations continue to flood the market. Here are the top trends to look out for in 2021:
Accessible automation is going to be a game-changer in factories. There are lots of robotic solutions coming up for each and every industrial activity, from drilling robots to assembly robots – it is hard to not find an activity that cannot be automated. Better still are the upcoming efforts to introduce human-robot collaboration. Robots can effectively perform preprogrammed routines with precision but they require a human in the loop for when the variables change. Humans have better perception, intuition, and decision-making skills than current robots and there is no current AI able to compete with us on that front. Small companies are embracing mobile robotics since they are cheap, easy to use, customizable, and portable. Some of these autonomous mobile robots can even navigate on their own.
Robots can reduce operational costs, optimize factories’ workflow due to their consistency, and increase the bottom-line.
Another major trend to watch out for is IoT. This is where technological devices are connected to each other remotely and can be controlled remotely. This is a very useful technology especially in large factories that have various machines working in different departments. These machines can be connected and controlled from a single point for purposes of monitoring and process control. With this technology, processes can be more finely controlled directly and be monitored for perfect quality. Additionally, operation managers can collect data from these devices to help in the analysis of performance so that they can change, optimize, and tweak processes for improvement.
IoT is a $267 billion industry that is rapidly expanding and any company that wants to be successful should take advantage of this technology.
ERP systems (Enterprise Resource Planning) software has become pretty sophisticated in the last few years. Any company worth its salt needs such software to be able to organize its resources and plan them for efficient use in their manufacturing processes. ERP systems also help control manufacturing processes starting from supply and delivery, resource allocation, inventory management up to packaging, and sales. These systems have seen widespread adoption due to newer, easier, simpler cloud-based SaaS software that can be used in smaller manufacturing organizations. Their best advantage is the ability to automate and control different areas of manufacturing operations under one system.
Due to the current data awakening phase, we are seeing globally, modern ERP systems have incorporated data analytics to help manufacturers track efficiencies of their processes and utilization of their resources. This will help organizations make necessary adjustments to improve their operations based on the insights gathered from their data.
Manufacturers have started shifting their focus from B2B to B2C. Traditionally, a manufacturer would produce goods to sell to a distributor who would then sell to customers. This was due to the high intensity of manufacturing processes back then which required the total focus of the manufacturer denying them the ability to market their goods. Now, modern technology has eased these pain points making manufacturing simpler and more efficient. This shift is beneficial to both the customers and manufacturers. Customers will get new goods straight from factories very cheaply due to the elimination of the distribution chain that added fees on products.
Manufacturers on the other hand will gain more since they can command retail prices rather than wholesale prices used for distributors resulting in higher profits. Also, they can deliver much faster to the market due to new technologies that help them produce new prototypes and send them to market faster. Manufacturers will have a solid grip on their brand’s visibility eliminating the risk of its dilution by outsourcing distribution to third parties. By selling directly to customers they have better feedback on their products and can use data gathered to improve production.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are the current buzzes in technology. Scientists are trying to create computer systems that mimic human activity to help automate complex work processes. Even though the technology is not yet there, it still is pretty good. AI has been incorporated in assembly robots to assemble vehicles by Tesla when they needed to produce and ship high volumes of the Model 3. With AI you can run a factory without humans, the only human input being the management of processes.
Another place AI and machine learning have found good use is in data analysis. AI can recognize trends to help you steer your operations towards the current market demands. Machine learning, on the other hand, learns and makes logical conclusions from data such as when to repair, when to produce more or how to increase efficiency. AI can help you make informed decisions based on your organization’s data, along with giving you advice on how to run operations to increase the bottom-line.
Industry 4.0 is the most important technology today in manufacturing. What is Industry 4.0? This is the synergistic integration of IoT, Cloud technology, robotics, advanced computers, AI & ML, and the human workforce. When put together, all these aspects create the ultimate modern manufacturing organization.
Imagine a factory with all these technologies, starting with IoT to connect all machines and devices, Cloud to connect to remote workstations, use software and coordinate efficiently remotely, robotics to perform tedious manufacturing operations and AI&ML to help coordinate complex operations. This is the current modern factory and with all these efficiencies, products are guaranteed to be of the best quality. When you combine the human workforce into this equation and you have an almost alien-like factory that none of the factories in the 1900s can ever dream of competing with.
Even better, 3d printing has become advanced enough to print metal parts thus eliminating tooling costs. Printing products layer by layer will most definitely be intriguing since you can now control the smallest parts of the product
2021 will definitely be interesting, given the sheer number of technologies we expect to see rolled out in the market.
Since her teen years, Bethany Watson was always interested in writing and esports, so she decided to merge these two passions by choosing the career of a journalist who mostly writes about trends in eSports. She regularly contributes to the major media publications in the niche and serves as an editor for datingjet.com.