From the Internet of Things to artificial intelligence, industry 4.0 technologies are bringing manufacturing into the digital age. Learn more from our blog!
Digital transformation is a necessary process that moves instantly – and slowly – all at the same time. As we enter a new decade, we find that the trends we see on the horizon for Industry 4.0 are much the same as trends that have been both growing thanks to the fourth industrial revolution. We no longer rely on steam power; rather, more and more companies are beginning to utilize digital technology.
One of the biggest areas we’ve seen an uptick in usage is the Internet of Things (IoT). Indeed, IoT has a massive benefit to offer manufacturing, as it enables the creation of the modern, necessary smart factory. Further, the fact that IoT can connect one’s work and processes helps companies better serve increasingly demanding consumers who want higher quality goods created with responsible manufacturing practices as soon as possible. One thing that is clear is the fact that manufacturers will be facing increasing pressures in cost, efficiency, and quality in the coming decade. And the only way to survive is through new tech adoption of resources like 5G, artificial intelligence, enterprise resource planning or VR/AR training. What are some of the biggest technologies continuing to expand in 2020? Read on for the answer!
Digitization isn’t happening by industry – it’s happening everywhere. According to Forbes, here are the top five technologies that digital manufacturing is turning to in order to innovate:
As we previously pointed out, the use of IoT in the manufacturing industry overlaps with other industries, including retail, consumer goods, healthcare, martech, and much more. The continuing interplay of all those avenues of connectivity and real time data are providing crucially important insights that are changing the way manufacturing is being run. We also are seeing a convergence of AI and IoT, with Gartner even predicting that more than 80 percent of IoT projects will encompass AI. One of the most obvious benefits of IoT usage is its promise of cost savings.
At the same time, it’s also providing information about the supply chain, such as the quality of parts and products being used, where they came from, and how they were grown, bought, or created. Customers are certainly making their voices heard nowadays, with more and more buyers demanding that the products they buy are manufactured responsibly. Thanks to IoT, manufacturers – not just brands selling the products being made – are being held accountable for these details. In fact, research from MPI Group found that nearly 70 percent of manufacturers credit the IoT with increasing profitability. Previous research predicted that by 2020, manufacturing companies would invest roughly $267 billion into IoT as clearly, they’re starting to get the message that this technology provides them incredible value.
Further, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, 90 percent of manufacturing companies in the United States today have fewer than 500 employees. As the new decade continues to unfold, these facts raise the following questions: will companies have the capacity to invest in and support employees knowledgeable of IoT? There is no definite answer and this discrepancy may be the one thing that causes small manufacturers to drop out of the digital manufacturing game.
Research has revealed that in a manufacturing environment, a single hour of downtime can equal $100,000 in losses. Some say that using big data, AI, and predictive analytics can help manufacturers reduce planned outages by 50 percent, with IBM even stating that it can decrease unplanned outages by 15 percent. One of the most obvious benefits of predictive analytics is the fact that they can help companies better understand how their machines work and why they fail, which allows them to prevent those failures altogether.
This certainly has made predictive analytics go from a nice-to-have to a must-have in a manufacturing environment. This shift is largely due to the fact that manufacturers today are operating in an environment that is full of risks and unknowns. For instance, how will the market change? How will it be disrupted? Where might businesses be taken geographically? If businesses move, will they be able to find partners in those areas that share the same commitment to quality that they do? Predictive analytics can help manufacturers make better, smarter, faster, and less risky decisions about everything from supply chain management optimization to machine maintenance, which all impacts customer experience; from the quality of goods produced to when customers receive orders.
5G is projected to play a role in improving (reducing) latency, providing high bandwidth and allowing for reliable real-time communication on a massive scale. By using 5G, manufactures can begin to increase their use of sensors, cloud computing, centralized tracking, quality inspection and more, creating an “ecosystem” of smart machines. While we may see a growing disparity between 5G have and have-nots in the next few years, it will undoubtedly play a larger role in smart manufacturing moving forward.
According to another Forbes article, while this trend was only once possible for large enterprises with large budgets, robotics are now more affordable and available to organizations of every size. Autonomous robots can quickly and safely support manufacturers, from picking products at a warehouse to getting them ready to ship. They can also move goods around warehouses, reduce costs, and allow for better use of floor space for retailers.
Also known as 3D printing, this technology has improved tremendously in the last decade. Most notably, this form of manufacturing has progressed from primarily being used for cheaper, faster prototyping to actual mass production. When it comes specifically to metal additive manufacturing, a lot of possibilities have been opened up for production.
The big trends in the digital transformation of manufacturing will also include technologies like cyber physical systems, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and AR and VR, which will continue to allow for better, safer training. While this isn’t necessarily a new trend, it points to an area of continuous improvement for manufacturing.
Again, we should reiterate that the growing connectedness of consumer demands will play a much more significant role in changing manufacturing for the better in the coming decade than the technologies noted above. In modern manufacturing, every company is here to serve the customer, with transformational trends like (A)IoT and 5G forcing them to meet customers where they’re at, more so in the next few years. Most notably, these technological trends will make that level of accountability possible.
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