Year every year, manufacturers and production communities across the globe anticipate new and exciting technologies that could make their operations even more efficient than they already were.
According to the latest industry report from Plex, there are a variety of drivers that push the majority of manufacturers to invest in new and better technologies. On top of the list is the competition, wherein 20% of the respondents believed that they lack the right technology to outpace their competitors and nearly 25% feel their inability to take advantage of new technology is hampering their growth.
As the demand for products increases both in the business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) sector, it has become more imperative for manufacturers to ensure that their technological capabilities are still reliable to satisfy such demand efficiently.
Read on as we detail in this post the latest technologies that are not only disrupting the conventional manufacturing industry but reshaping its future too.
1. Additive Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing, more popularly known among non-manufacturing people as 3D printing, is the biggest technological trend being adopted by many manufacturers today.
Compared to the conventional production approach, i.e., subtractive manufacturing, this modern technology allows manufacturers to fabricate an item by adding the material layer by layer, rather than removing material to create the same item.
Just like subtractive manufacturing tools like CNC, 3D printers can create parts from CAD models, making the technological transition for companies much less challenging. And since these tools can use a variety of materials – from thermoset plastics to hard metals – they are also a great addition for manufacturers that are aiming to achieve a high degree of design freedom when creating custom final parts or prototypes.
Robotic technologies have long been a crucial component in modern manufacturing facilities, and most recently have been integrated in automated laser cutting machines. However, the constant innovation in this field has enabled companies to integrate this in this logistics and supply chain operations as well. Enter collaborative robots, simply known as Co-Bots – which can help manufacturers to streamline their packing and palletizing tasks.
Co-Bots are designed to function seamlessly alongside the human workforce, which makes them very ideal in high mix, low volume manufacturing warehouses where human instinct and robotic quickness and efficiency is highly warranted to meet variable demand.
eCommerce has become a major driver that forever changed the way retail businesses operate and deal with their customers, making it one of the most thriving sectors in terms of revenue.
To experience the advantages it offers, more and more manufacturers are also making their move towards the eCommerce business model.
While not directly influencing their operational efficiency, modern eCommerce platforms can empower manufacturers to boost their revenue because it allows them to reach new markets. Through eCommerce, manufacturers can entice more clients to avail their unique product and service offerings – ranging from something as simple as being able to fabricate more unique colors and finishes to as complex as providing exclusive designs.
In addition, this new platform will allow them to expand their reach and without necessarily competing head to head with their local competitors.
4. Nano Manufacturing
Nanotechnology refers to the projected capability to fabricate a product on an atomic or molecular level. In the manufacturing industry, nanotechnology can allow companies to use extremely strong materials such as nanoengineered polymer and nano-scale lubricant coatings to ultimately produce innovative, next-generation products at a lower cost and in a more sustainable way.
5. Big Data
It is said the “Data is the new oil,” and this rings extremely true in the manufacturing business. In order to stay competitive, manufacturers need data to analyze to extract insights that could further elevate their current processes. That is why more companies now turn on big data technologies – tools that are able to process both structured and unstructured data and produce actionable information in real-time.
One use case of big data in manufacturing is quality assurance. In 2014, BMW used big data to detect vulnerabilities in their new car prototypes, which enabled them to move into production with a lesser probability of recalls after the cars rolled out in the market. By analyzing the data in their vehicle design and modeling software, BMW was able to ensure a higher quality of their products, reduce warranty cost, boost their brand reputation, and save the lives of many.
6. Cloud Computing
If there’s one technological innovation that singlehandedly changed the way the business sector operated for the past 2 decades, it would be cloud computing. For novices, cloud computing is the utilization of software and hardware which is delivered as a service over a network.
While the industry has been reliant on technology since time immemorial, the cutting-edge innovations discussed above represent the latest dynamics shaping manufacturing these days. Through cloud computing, companies no longer have to invest in expensive data centers to manage, manipulate, and store their critical business data.
While the manufacturing industry is still slow in adopting such a platform due to security concerns, more and more manufacturers see the advantages that it could bring to their operations. From simple uses such as storage for their crucial product designs and patented operational process, to complex uses such as operating new facilities and supporting demand fluctuations, cloud computing is an exciting technology seen as a key to long-term efficiency and success by most manufacturing companies.
As these technologies continue to innovate the way products are fabricated, used, and delivered, the more we can expect that manufacturers will embrace them to increase their productivity, improve their profitability, and take their operations to the next level for years to come.