From the most recent smartphone to the latest fashion, keeping up-to-date with trends can be tiring. In the manufacturing industry, future-proofing your factory may seem like a daunting task, especially as parts become obsolete as quickly as new advancements emerge. Here, Jon Young Sales Director at EU Automation, sets out his predications for 2019 manufacturing trends.
Asia Pacific countries can expect a surge in workplace automation, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, over the next three years. According to research from Willis Towers Watson’s Global Future of Work Survey, automation is set to account for around 23 percent of work being done across the region.
This compares with 13 percent of work using AI and robotics today, and just seven percent three years ago. With this growth in mind, how should manufacturers adapt to stop them from falling behind?
Virtual technology has been around for a while, and is most often associated with design and entertainment industries. However, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been breaking into industrial environments over the past few years, and this growth is set to continue.
Enabled by the increased networking of equipment, such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, predictive maintenance uses data obtained by sensors to monitor the condition of equipment. By analysing this data, engineers can predict when equipment parts may need servicing or replacing, allowing them to intervene before the system fails.
AR and VR take things to the next level. By using a smart device, maintenance engineers can create a digital representation of a fault and, more importantly, the solution. This level of maintenance will allow engineers to pinpoint exactly where a system may fail, ensuring the correct replacement part is ordered well in advance.
When thinking towards the future, the phrase ‘out with the old, in with the new’ may spring to mind. This doesn’t always need to be the case. As complete upgrades can be costly and time-consuming, many manufacturers will continue to teach older machinery new tricks with retrofitting.
Industrial components that are coming to the end of their service life are always at risk of causing unexpected downtime or delays to production. Retrofitting improves machine reliability by replacing older components with more advanced equipment.
Integration doesn’t need to break the bank. As production rates are so high, some components become obsolete after only a few years, making them an economical option.
One size no longer fits all. Over the past decade, the design-it-yourself business model has snuck quietly into the manufacturing market. Even major producers like Nike and Adidas offer specialised web portals that allow customers to design footwear personalised to their own aesthetic and functional needs.
Thanks to other key innovations in the industry, such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and 3D printing, automation will continue to take the desire to differentiate to a mass scale.
But mass customisation puts pressure on manufacturing companies to up their game in nearly every aspect of their operations, from customer sales to crafting flexible yet cost-effective custom manufacturing processes. Manufacturers must be lean and adaptable to deliver variations on products and quickly respond to changes in requirements. It will be of no surprise therefore, if machinery were to feel the impact.
As automation advances, keeping on top of the latest trends may seem tricky. However, preparing for what 2019 has to offer can be made simpler.
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