Technology Trends for the Manufacturing Industry

Every sector is impacted by technological developments. Tech isn’t a fad. You could find your business left behind if you fail to embrace the best manufacturing technology for your company. Learn the pros and cons of various trends and how they affect the industry to choose the options that will optimize your productivity and give you an edge against the competition.

Technology Trends Transforming the Manufacturing Industry

Technological trends can drastically increase efficiency and productivity, resulting in higher production. A McKinsey report from 2017 predicted a best-case scenario of how new manufacturing technology could boost the industry’s gross domestic product (GDP) to $3 trillion by 2025, or $530 billion higher than the then-current trend. Four years later, in 2021, McKinsey revisited the topic, still predicting a rosy outcome for U.S. manufacturers with a rise in GDP to $460 billion by 2030. In both cases, technology played a significant part in the increase in GDP for American manufacturing.

The latest manufacturing technology trends are already in use in some facilities, proving their efficacy in enhancing productivity.

1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the ability of computers to learn from situations and make conclusions. Part of this process includes machine learning as a subset of AI. However, the broader category of AI goes beyond that to allow for thinking and predicting similar to the process humans use. While machine learning looks at patterns, AI looks to maximize the success of the operation, thinking more as a human manager would than a computer.

AI can adjust automated workflows after analyzing information on supply and demand. An AI system can make predictions on optimized workflows to ensure the facility has an ideal inventory without over- or under-producing.

Another use of AI is the computer vision subset of it. This form of AI improves inspections by scanning products for defects that human quality assurance workers might miss.

2. Automated Picking

Automated picking improves warehouse functions for delivery of parts or operations within a manufacturing facility that require pulling materials to bring to the production line. Using robotics to pick parts reduces errors and wasted time.

This system also helps to protect human workers from the potentially dangerous consuming task of finding parts or materials within a storage space and bringing them back. Human workers within a warehouse or manufacturing facility face harm from collisions with forklifts or injuries from lifting heavy loads. Using automation to pull parts or materials reduces strain and workplace hazards.

3. Big Data

Big data requires the analytical powers of computers to sort through massive amounts of information too complex for humans to examine efficiently. Computers can uncover relationships between seemingly unrelated elements to see how those impact the manufacturer’s productivity, sales and supply. Factors as seemingly unrelated as weather changes across the globe can impact the supply chain and ultimately may affect whether a manufacturer can get materials to fulfill a production order on time.

With big data, manufacturers can improve their efficiency and productivity by using the connections discovered from analyzing much larger amounts of information than ever before possible.

4. Blockchain

Blockchain is a secure, virtual ledger that only specific parties can access and add information to. The data creates a block of information that fits onto the rest of the previously created blocks to form the blockchain. Since even those with permission cannot change the data already on the blockchain, the information on it is immutable, increasing the trustworthiness of the blockchain. Tracing supply transactions, creating smart contracts and tracking real or virtual assets are common applications of blockchain.

These ledgers are frequently used in manufacturing to trace supplies or form unchangeable, legally binding virtual contracts with others in the supply chain. Enhanced traceability of all materials used to create products is possible with blockchain. Recalls can begin sooner because tracing products happens faster due to the transparency of a blockchain.

Blockchain smart contracts can also save time by automatically approving transactions securely. For instance, when a company’s materials reach a specified level, the smart contract triggers a notice for the supplier to send another delivery. Once the supplier fulfills the order for a manufacturer’s raw materials, the smart contract can automatically approve the sale and trigger the supplier to ship out the order. Since a person does not need to review the information, the process is faster and more efficient. This process allows companies to adopt just-in-time (JIT) logistics for leaner operations since they can order supplies as needed instead of stockpiling them.

5. Cloud Computing

Cloud computing removes the variable of having a laptop or desktop computer with all the company’s software and information on it. A physical computer or hard drive is susceptible to damage from natural disasters, computer viruses and errors. Additionally, facility managers have to worry about their computer specs and if their desktops can run the company’s software. Any of these issues could put the company’s data and ability to operate at risk. Shifting programs such as management software to an internet-based cloud system eliminates physical loss chances.

Cloud computing increases the mobility of operations by allowing access to company data from mobile devices, laptops and desktops from anywhere with an internet connection, including the factory floor.

6. Collaborative Robotics

Collaborative robots, also known as cobots, are automation components that work alongside humans. The cobots do the tedious, repetitive tasks that can tax human minds and bodies while the human workers handle the jobs requiring human expertise and skill. Types of work best suited to cobots in manufacturing include assembly, injection molding, pick and place, polishing, screw driving and inspections.

Cobots tend to be small, taking a few inches of space and weighing under 80 pounds, and are a more cost-effective alternative to other robotics. Their small size and low costs make these robots an ideal way for any manufacturer, large or small, to integrate robotics into operations and see automation benefits.

7. Computer Aids

Computer-aided manufacturing permits automation without robotics. The software can define qualities for production batches, which reduces the need for human intervention. This system also reduces the number of errors and decreases project completion time.

8. Enterprise Resource Planning

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a software solution that helps companies better control every aspect of operations in modules. These modules may include employee scheduling, sales or finances. This software is a valuable part of even old-school manufacturing companies. However, modern iterations take advantage of cloud-based storage of a handful of modules while retaining critical modules locally. This type of hybrid model for ERP reduces the amount of cloud storage a company needs and lessens the reliance on internet connections for the essential functions of the manufacturing facility.

9. Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a future-forward production method that uses communication and AI among pieces of manufacturing equipment and software to enhance operations. IoT relies on sensors installed on equipment to identify processes and procedures. One application of IoT is maintenance. The sensors can detect when the device needs service and trigger alternative machinery to take up the slack while the device undergoes maintenance.

Another way IoT works is by adjusting the production rate of machinery down the line based on the speed of initial processes. For instance, if the first step in a manufacturing process experiences a snag that slows it down, IoT can automatically slow processes at subsequent parts of the production line to prevent backups.

A key part of IoT is the connectability of devices, which may require universal connectability for factory equipment and machinery, another of the many new tech tools for manufacturing.

10. Machine Learning

Machine learning is a subset of AI. This type of system examines structured and semi-structured data to identify patterns. Equipment programmed with machine learning uses the software to improve the accuracy of production. It can automatically make slight alterations in the production process to enhance production. What sets machine learning apart is its ability to make these changes without a human reprogramming the equipment.

Additionally, machine learning provides valuable information for predictive maintenance by tracking wear and repair patterns and choosing the optimum time to service the equipment. Predicting when to maintain machinery reduces wasted time from breakdowns or unnecessary scheduled maintenance.

Inventory reductions due to enhanced supply chain forecasting is another way machine learning helps the manufacturing industry. This system looks at both historic and current demands and current conditions to predict the best routes and product flow through the supply chain. By using machine learning, forecasting errors for the supply chain drop by half and administration, transportation and warehousing costs all decrease.

11. Mobile Robotics

Mobile robotics are popular options for warehouses that need automatic transportation for products. They are also useful for moving items around factory floors or transporting completed products to storage sites. These devices can navigate around obstacles automatically, making them safer for operating in heavily-trafficked areas.

12. Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance is another subset of AI and machine learning that can improve manufacturing operations. Scheduled maintenance relies on a set period or use intervals for equipment to conduct repairs, top off the oil, tighten connections and check for wear. By using machine learning, the system to schedule service for equipment becomes smarter.

A computer monitors the equipment’s use and wear over time. This data helps the system predict the best time to maintain the equipment to reduce downtime and avoid lowered productivity caused by excessive wear. By using predictive maintenance, companies could see a drop in annual maintenance costs up to 10% and a decline in downtime up to 20%.

13. Robotics

Robotics include everything from cobots and mobile robotics to fully automated line robots. Automation with robotics operations reduces errors caused by human workers. Robots can produce more consistent results, making them ideal for industries with tight tolerances for parts, such as aviation.

14. Universal Connectability

Universal connectability allows different types of tech to communicate with each other. This ability to connect allows for more communication between devices. Connectability allows for IoT setups and the ability to customize the technology based on the manufacturing needs instead of manufacturers adapting to available equipment.

The Impact of Technology Trends on the Manufacturing Industry

Technological innovations for manufacturing are changing the sector by improving productivity and creating jobs. Small and medium manufacturers can remain in business and compete with larger companies when they embrace the benefits of technological innovations for their operations.

Gives Small and Medium Manufacturers Means to Improve Productivity

For small and medium manufacturers, the improvements are dramatic, allowing these companies to achieve productivity levels similar to larger companies. One small company with 25 employees that manufactures a medical solution to stabilize patients saw their productivity increase 10 times by integrating collaborative robotics. This example illustrates the boost that small and medium manufacturers receive from investing in some of the latest technology.

Facilitates Recalls via Supply Chain Tracking

Blockchain technology makes effective tracking of products through the supply chain from raw goods to finished parts possible. Acceptable goods are vital to manufacturing quality products. Blockchain gives users improved visibility of the supply chain. The insights provided allow manufacturers to verify the integrity of the materials they use and ensure the caliber of their finished products.

Supply chain visibility reduces the time required to track materials or parts in recalls. Blockchain requires only seconds to uncover the origins of parts. Without using blockchain, a manufacturer would spend days sifting through paperwork to get the same information.

Opens More Job Opportunities

As technology allows for greater efficiency and productivity, manufacturers will need more skilled employees. These workers will work alongside automated systems or provide maintenance for the robotics. For the medical device company, using collaborative robots increased their productivity and their need for more staff. Contrary to fears of technology taking over jobs, this company did not lose employees. Instead, they increased their staff by 16%.

Improves Product Quality and Consistency

Through computer vision analysis of finished products, manufacturers can identify errors in production faster and more accurately than human quality control personnel could. Via computer vision AI scanning of products, detection of defects increases up to 90% for some facilities, vastly improving the production quality.

How to Embrace New Technology in Manufacturing

Embracing new technology that fits the way you do business can help improve your efficiency. The best manufacturing technology trends help you improve your company’s productivity. There are different options for adopting new technology, directly or indirectly.

You may choose to invest in technological tools that your employees will use directly to improve their productivity. An example of this is adding automation along a production line with robotics to increase speed and the number of completed products. You could also upgrade automated equipment to IoT devices that allow the machinery to communicate along the manufacturing line, reducing time and boosting efficiency.

Another method for those without the capital to invest heavily in technology is turning to a single-source manufacturer who embraces the methods and tools needed to achieve high productivity for metal machining and fabrication. This option gives your company the productivity advantages of technology in manufacturing without the need to immediately invest in expensive new equipment and train employees on it.

High tech solutions can help reduce the burden of finding skilled labor, reduce waste in production and increase productivity on your line. Embracing technologically advanced equipment will give you an edge over your competitors, whether you choose to add the tools into your facility or outsource to a single-source manufacturer.

Contact Pro-Cise for a Single-Source Manufacturer to Help Your Productivity With Technology

Technology is changing the manufacturing industry. However, quality and care put into work are timeless. At Pro-Cise, we offer services for our customers as a manufacturer of OEM components. Among the services we provide are various forms of high-tech component testing to ensure material and workmanship quality. These tests include mag particle, ultrasonic, radiographic, non-destructive and die penetrate. Plus, we provide material traceability and are ISO 9001:2015 certified.

Trust our team at Pro-Cise to be your single-source manufacturer. Contact us today to learn more about how our processes and technology can help improve your manufacturing business.