Throughout the history of industrial revolutions, operational and technological changes in manufacturing have always catalyzed industrial and societal transformation forward. Today, as we stand in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, commonly termed as Industry 4.0, manufacturing is evolving to become a highly connected, intelligent, and productive industry due to the advent of a new generation of sophisticated technologies. According to a recent survey conducted by the marketing research firm Decision Analyst in collaboration with IQMS Manufacturing Software, the technologies that bring greater insights and mobility are the key to enabling transformation in manufacturing.
What are the technologies that will transform manufacturing in 2019 and beyond? Here, we take a look at three of them.
Imagine an automobile manufacturer who releases a vehicle containing defective parts, which leads to expensive recalls and repairs. It is possible for the automaker to trace the supplier of the damaged parts more efficiently using blockchain. This reduces the time and labor costs of the manufacturer.
How blockchain makes it possible?
Blockchain addresses a wide range of supply chain issues, including traceability. Its distributed ledger structure and block-based approach records every single transaction in the supply chain in the form of an immutable and verifiable record, which is secured using cryptography. Multiple parties are able to safely execute their transactions without the need for a trusted, central authority.
To address challenges in manufacturing, blockchain offers,
- Audit trail for every single transaction
- Immutable form of record maintenance
- Tamper-proof data, which is easily verifiable
- Provides almost real-time response
- Single shared source of true data
Blockchain benefits to manufacturing
- enhances the supply chain efficiency by improving supplier order accuracy, product quality, and track-and-traceability
- enables manufacturers to meet delivery dates, improve product quality and drive sales
- improves visibility across multiple areas of manufacturing starting with suppliers, strategic sourcing, procurement, floor operations, monitoring of machine functions, maintenance services and so on
- supports development and implementation of entirely new manufacturing business models.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Imagine you are heading a company that manufactures Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) units for your consumers. If you are smart enough to invest in IoT, you can remotely monitor and maintain your HVAC system’s performance in your consumers’ homes or offices, detect any failures or leaks and alert your consumers to possible problems. If you are additionally proactive, you can manage, engage and reassure the customer that the problem can be solved remotely.
Hyper connectivity, predictive and preventive maintenance, real-time monitoring, and enhanced operational capabilities are some of the benefits that IoT offers to manufacturing. The explosive growth of IoT is most commonly discussed in terms of consumer products and devices. However, the technology’s scope in the manufacturing sector, and its potential for connectivity throughout the supply chain is wider than consumer IoT applications. In manufacturing, IoT connects assets to processes, systems and people.
Multiple ways IoT drives efficiency in manufacturing
- Using intelligent assets and equipment
- Prevent delays in production and improve the performance of production line
- Reduce equipment downtime and increase process efficiency
- Accelerate equipment repairs
- Cognitive analytics, processes and operations
- Improve production line’s productivity through inventory and scrap reductions
- Expedite service calls and repairs, and reduce warranty costs
- Improve quality and yield through enhanced quality practices
- Smart use of analytics to explore inputs like geolocation data, usage data, individual data, and environmental conditions to:
- Improve worker safety and streamline workforce management
- Increase employee productivity and expertise
- Reduce energy consumption in facilities and buildings
Optimization of resources such as people, energy, or knowledge, is crucial for driving down costs, and improving overall engagement and productivity levels.
TrendForce, a world leading market intelligence provider estimates that “smart manufacturing”, which roughly combines industrial IoT and AI, is projected to grow noticeably in the next 3 to 5 years. By 2020, the global smart manufacturing market will be well over USD 320 billion, states TrendForce. Likewise, the International Federation of Robotics estimates that by 2019, the number of operational industrial robots installed in factories will grow up to 2.6 million.
Another commonly witnessed trend of AI in manufacturing is that most of the leading companies that build machine learning tools for manufacturing are also using the same tools in-house, into their own manufacturing operations. This makes them the developer and the first customer simultaneously. For instance, the German multinational Siemens has been using neural networks to monitor its steel plants and improve efficiencies for a long time. This practice has made Siemens a leader in developing AI for manufacturing and industrial applications.
AI’s potential in manufacturing
- Ability of AI to adapt to continuously changing tasks, rather than managing the mere traditional repetitive tasks
- Highly beneficial in carrying out predictive maintenance for manufacturing equipment and real-time problem solving through sensors which track the operating conditions and performance of factory tooling
- Self-learning AI system that learns to predict equipment or tool breakdown and malfunctions, and has the ability to take or recommend corrective actions, which will considerably save costly manufacturing recalls and repairs
- Integration of AI with big data analytics and cloud will help manufacturers make more informed decisions at each stage in the production process in real time
- Technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence help us to identify microscopic defects in products, well beyond human vision
- The use of AI in supply chain enables manufacturing companies to forecast demand patterns for their products across various geographic and socioeconomic segments
The changing customer demands along with the transforming economics of production and distribution are compelling manufacturers to explore more sophisticated and cognitive technologies. Smart manufacturing, robotics, artificial intelligence, blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) are expected to be major driving forces in the future of manufacturing. Industry 4.0 is not just the adoption of advanced digital technologies in manufacturing, but it rather denotes the holistic transformation in production and supply chain, and the changes brought to traditional production relationships among suppliers, producers, and customers.
“Industry 4.0 is a transformation that makes it possible to gather and analyze data across machines, enabling faster, more flexible, and more efficient processes to produce higher-quality goods at reduced costs. This manufacturing revolution will increase productivity, shift economics, foster industrial growth, and modify the profile of the workforce—ultimately changing the competitiveness of companies and regions.” – Boston Consulting Group.