Technology and manufacturing are two phenomena that go hand in hand. As technology advances, it improves manufacturing. As manufacturing advances, it paves the way for new technology. It is a revolving cycle of progress that powerfully affects our daily lives each year.
Technology has become almost an extension of manufacturing creativity, with many advancements helping us innovate. Advancements such as artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) are innovating how we design and create new manufactured goods and improving the manufacturing process.
Here’s a look at five modern technologies impacting and enhancing manufacturing.
1. Big Data Analytics
Data helps manufacturers make informed business decisions. However, it’s not easy to tie all the systems (CMSS, ERP, MES, etc.) together to get a bird’s-eye view of how the industry floor is performing. Big data analytics offer a solution by consolidating data from internal and outside systems into a central hub. Manufacturers can check the hub to find patterns and solve issues quickly and efficiently.
According to a Honeywell survey, 68% of American manufacturers are currently investing in big data. Big data platforms help reduce operating and manufacturing costs while increasing production productivity. A manufacturing company’s overall yield increases with a greater understanding of its work’s outcome. With greater product yields come greater profits in the long run.
2. The Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) allows us to synchronize many devices and machines under a single network. Not only can we connect our phones and computers, but now the IoT incorporates other devices, such as appliances and production lines. Integrating the IoT into industrial production gives plant owners, managers, and team members the ability to swiftly and efficiently monitor and control every stage of the production process.
IoT is being increased to an industrial scale, incorporating other aspects such as machine learning, cloud integration, big data, and machine automation. Because these all work in unison, a whole factory can be monitored and maintained from a single room. IoT allows quick updates of stock levels and production counts. By integrating it with a purchasing department and setting up AI triggers, a system can automate processes such as ordering stock when stock levels reach a certain point.
By integrating it with machine learning, managers can set up predictive maintenance schedules that notify them when certain machines need examining. Knowing what needs maintenance and what needs to be repaired well ahead of schedule improves responsiveness and reduces downtime. IoT data also helps determine sales patterns that can become the backbone of time-efficient production schedules.
3. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI systems offer a fantastic hands-off approach to monitoring and optimizing production, freeing up whole teams for other tasks. AIs can learn how to interpret and extrapolate data pools via machine learning. By utilizing these two concepts alongside production, manufacturers can create automated production systems that adapt to the times.
In the old days, we could only program machines to perform specific tasks. An assembly machine could only be instructed on how to assemble a product. A stock system could only inform the user of stock levels. With AI, machines have become much more adaptable. AI also offers the relief of taking mundane and repetitive tasks from engineers. This allows them more time to focus on tasks that can help the business, such as R&D and customer service.
While they require a degree of human interaction, especially during setup and the early days, AI with machine learning will adapt quickly. A system linked by AI will monitor the production progress as it progresses. Each stock item is logged automatically and compared against a minimum stock level. Should the total stock drop below this level, it will automatically notify the purchasing department to order more. Should errors arise during production, engineers will be aware and able to fix them before they ruin a whole batch. AI can also notify customers about completed orders and send out offers for repeat orders further down the line.
4. Virtual Reality (VR)
Most people consider virtual reality only part of science fiction movies and video games, but advances in the technology have made it a useful tool in manufacturing. VR gives designers and engineers a safe and affordable way to build prototypes for industries that create complex products.
Prototypes are a necessary part of production: constructing rough approximations of a final product so that designers can test them before putting it into full production. Normally, this means physically building the product according to the design specifications (such as a circuit board or engine) using disposable parts. The prototype can then be used and tested in various ways to see how it will perform under use.
Building prototypes is a time-consuming task that interrupts a production schedule, but it saves on potential costly errors and issues further down the line. Engineers and designers can build a realistic prototype without using a VR-simulated environment without using real-world components. These prototypes are then tested using a set of variables and situations to determine the design’s efficacy. Once tested, manufacturers can begin mass producing the parts without worrying that it will present issues.
Addressing and preventing issues long before they appear is the key to reducing money and time lost during production. Combining VR with AI systems provides manufacturers with the ultimate toolset for streamlining and automating production lines.
CNC technology is helping manufacturers produce large scale products with great accuracy. The main objective of CNC is to eliminate errors by processing computerized data and making the finalized product according to exact specifications. The same operation can be repeated, enabling manufacturers to produce multiple versions of the same product without variance.
Recently, more manufacturers have bought plasma CNC machines from Squickmon’s after discovering their benefits. The best CNC machines are known for their high degree of precision while creating intricate shapes like curves or diagonal cuts. Various CNC software is used to program the specifications and design of the product while providing instructions to coordinate position, depth, direction and feedrate of the CNC machine.
The global market for CNC machines is projected to be valued at $115 billion in 2026, which indicates that more and more manufacturers will adopt CNC in the coming years.
Modern technologies are ever-evolving and ever-improving. With each new advancement, manufacturers find new ways to improve workflows and processes. Whether you’re a small manufacturer or run a large facility, adapting to technologies like CNC, VR, and AI can help you become more profitable and competitive.