Digital transformation is no longer a buzzword; it is a reality for most companies today. With Industry 4.0, an increasing number of manufacturers are turning to digital technology as companies are moving from mass production to customized production.
Digital manufacturing goes beyond just supply chain, it’s about business operations and revenue growth, transforming products and improving the customer experience. These digital manufacturing trends are changing the way organizations do business.
Internet of Things (IoT)
One of the key digital manufacturing trends is IoT. According to IDC, manufacturers are expected to spend approximately 189 billion on IoT solutions in 2018. These solutions will support mostly manufacturing operations and production asset management.
IoT helps manufacturers streamline, simplify and automate various manufacturing processes. IoT is transforming many aspects of operations including real-time production monitoring, improving the accuracy of critical metrics and product yield rate efficiencies.
Manufacturers are rapidly investing in IoT to create new products and services while driving down production costs. This transformation is changing the way managers think about how they engage customers and empower employees while improving overall operations.
Analytics offers quick and easy access to production, inventory and other quality data, which enables managers to adjust machines and platforms across the enterprise. Analytics helps manufacturers identify quality issues more efficiently, increase production and reduce problems that lead to a variety of service issues.
Reliability is critical when it comes to the operations of equipment on a production floor as you cannot afford any downtime. Big Data Analytics offers quick and easy access to production, inventory and other quality data, which enables managers and operators to adjust machines and processes accordingly.
Data Analytics minimizes plant shut-downs and increases overall productivity and yield efficiency. Manufacturers can now have decision makers predict the performance of their entire operations which leads to an improved supply chain, more efficient processes, and reduced waste.
AI and Machine Learning
AI continues to be a popular digital initiative that enhances decision making and improves the customer experience. According to a Gartner Survey, 59% of organizations are still gathering information to build their AI strategies, while the remainder have already made progress in piloting or adopting AI solutions.
Technologies that originate from AI include machine learning; computer vision; natural language processing; speech recognition; robotics; etc. Machine learning (ML) is a huge AI trend for manufacturers. ML is the science of getting computers to learn and act like humans do and improve their learning over time in an autonomous fashion without explicit programming. ML provides knowledge to computers through data, observations, and interactions resulting in improved performance.
Gartner predicts that by 2021, 40% of manufacturing enterprises will establish 3D printing centers of excellence. The objects can be used as a prototype; a tool jig or fixture used in the manufacturing process; or a finished good. 3D Printing allows manufacturers to develop and revise products rapidly before undertaking the costly processes associated with traditional manufacturing. This technology trend accelerates product development and reduces the time-to market.
Manufacturers are also finding that 3D printing can contribute to increasing production flexibility, further increasing sales and driving revenue growth. Offering customized products and services is also rising as manufacturers rely on 3D printing to streamline and grow their mass customization and build-to-order product strategies.
According to Gartner, “Around 10% of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or Cloud. By 2022, Gartner predicts this figure will reach 50%.” With these statistics, Edge computing has enormous potential to enable digital initiatives supported by mobile and IoT technologies.
Also, this digital trend allows smart applications and devices to respond to data almost instantly without latency, allowing decision makers to take action on insights faster than before. Also, since data is being processed near the source, it reduces bandwidth usage. This technology helps eliminate costs and ensure that applications can be used effectively and securely in remote locations. This is critical for the success of digital manufacturing.
The role of cybersecurity is critical today due to significant manufacturing operation risks for connected devices, digital supply networks and all manufacturing systems. While advancement in sensors, artificial intelligence, and wireless technologies enables a paradigm shift in manufacturing, cyber-attacks pose significant threats to the manufacturing sector.
Security solutions should be built into the overall system, including measures such as advanced physical security, real-time encryption, high-level network security, restricted data access systems and so on. Since smart factories include machine-to-machine and man-to machine communication, management of identity, authorization and authentication structures must be designed to support all these interactions, but, at the same time, to provide access only to the authorized parties (man or machines).
Manufacturing organizations that invest in digital technologies will emerge more competitive. With the explosion of connected devices and platforms in conjunction with enormous amount of data, organization need to quickly adapt to a digital world. Implementing smart, connected technologies, manufacturing is transforming how parts and products are designed, made, used, and maintained. Thus, resulting in organizations identifying quality issues more efficiently, improving employee resource efficiency, and optimizing overall supply chain and processes.