Economic growth in 2016 has been showing positive ripples in 2016 but unfortunately it is not as rapid as one would want it to be. In this scenario, the manufacturing industry which has already seen the dark side of the recession is cautious and companies are only taking calculated risks. However, there is a significant trend that is transforming the entire segment, i.e. the way it looks, its systems, products and processes. This trend, related to technology innovations, has the power to change the face of this sedate segment for ever.
Therefore, instead of being cautious in adapting these changes, manufacturing companies would stand to gain if they caught the winds of technology innovations, blowing their way. So how does a manufacturing company decide which technology innovation to adapt and which to ignore for the moment?
The thumb rule is to ask the following questions:
- Will technology have a positive impact on my business?
- If yes, will it help to bring down costs, increase productivity?
- And, will the whole process of change be non-disruptive to the existing business?
Keeping in mind the above, four definite technology trends that manufacturing companies must be aware of, are:
Internet of Things (IoT)
The connected factory is not a new idea. It has been evolving over the years and it is now leveraging the Web to link machines and humans to better performance. Information is becoming a key to deriving intelligence which in turn provides powerful insights. But going beyond monitoring and gazing, IoT technology leads to better quality products, better connected workplaces and smarter solutions to address the needs of next-gen customers. The ambiguity of IoT in relation to an actual manufacturing company can be best handled by technology experts.
PwC in a recent report ‘2016 Industrial Manufacturing Trends‘ confirms that China emerged as an automated manufacturing powerhouse, as increased labor costs and booming industrial demand drove tremendous growth in industrial robotics. Since 2013, the number of shipments of multipurpose industrial robots in China roughly doubled to an estimated 75,000 in 2015, with that number forecast to double yet again to 150,000 by 2018, according to the International Federation of Robotics. However, robotics is already passé and it is ‘Cobotics’ (robots complementing human workers) that is being viewed as a faster and safer route to take for manufacturing companies.
Augmented reality adds graphics, sounds, haptic feedback and smell to the natural world as it exists. It is a natural step forward for manufacturing companies that can now deliver real-time information and guidance to floor workers. Some companies are using augmented reality to provide and access a real-time view of the operations. Devices with augmented reality can help guide workers on the floor as they perform complex tasks. It is as close to natural as humanly possible and makes sense for large manufacturing units.
A cloud ERP system includes human capital management so a floor manager can view resource availability. The cloud remains connected to the plant providing real time production information, which can be accessed from anywhere at any time using any mobile device. Up-to-date knowledge and visibility translate into optimized production and preventive maintenance. Since the cloud provides unprecedented visibility it is easier to plan delivery and customer satisfaction is a direct outcome of this effort.
To summarize, the four technology trends described above are generic in nature. Their applicability and suitability to an organization remains within the context of the specific needs of an organization and this can best be recommended by technology experts.