11/05/2022

STEVE DAVIES

MANUFACTURING - AN ADVANCING SECTOR

Advanced manufacturing technologies are playing a vital role in the growth of the world economy. Industry 4.0 is the name given to the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. 

Current emerging manufacturing trends include innovations that improve the productivity and sustainability of entire production processes. Major trends include industrial automation, smart factories, additive manufacturing, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI). In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturing companies are exploring ways to maintain productivity with reduced manpower. This includes smart sensors, immersive technology devices, and wearables that reduce the need for the physical presence of workers. Companies are also shifting to sustainable materials and green energy sources to reduce the carbon footprint of manufacturing facilities and of the final products. 

Automation has long been part of the evolution of manufacturing to improve productivity and improve safety. Innovations in robotics and control systems continue to make implementation of automation of the production line easier and more cost effective to address more complex tasks.  

Additive manufacturing provides a quick and easy method for producing prototypes during a development phase. The technology continues to advance toward becoming more suited to mass manufacture and will pave the way for localised and distributed manufacturing and on-demand production. 

Artificial Intelligence & Manufacturing

AI is making a significant impact in many areas and manufacturing is no exception. Modern manufacturing equipment and digital systems are providing large amounts of data which can generate insights on production optimisation, maintenance scheduling and asset management through use of big data analytics and machine learning algorithms. IoT devices and sensors are also contributing to this data pool and in combination with AI are providing insights on predictive maintenance and being used to build digital twins of production lines.  

Cloud-based systems avoid the need for costly computer hardware and servers and allow the sharing of data across platforms. Cloud computing is an established manufacturing trend that enables on premise users and remote workforces to collaborate in real time. This approach in manufacturing improves manageability and reduces network maintenance. The implementation of IoT needs fast, secure, and continuous connectivity between the different devices in the manufacturing system. The increase in the number of connected devices increases the demand for bandwidth. In this situation, the latest generation of network technology, 5G (mmWave) satisfies the need for high-speed, reliable, and secure connectivity. The 5G network’s high capacities, wireless flexibility, and low latencies enable companies to set up smart factories that require inputs from sensor technology.  

 

Immersive technologies are also finding application in manufacturing. Virtual Reality (VR) is being used for product simulation and training applications and augmented reality (AR) can overlay relevant information on a piece of machinery to guide the operator to identify and fix problems without the need to consult a physical manual. Similarly smart glasses can be used to provide in situ instructions or relay video feeds to other experts situated remotely. Other wearable devices like smartwatches, smart bands, and headsets also provides valuable real-time data. The monitoring of shop floor movement can improve the safety of workers and also provides data that is useful in process improvements and layout designs. 

It’s already upon us – so you better know your market

Introduction of new technologies in manufacturing is moving at a rapid pace so any new venture aiming to enter and disrupt the market will need to understand the market well, and validation of the value proposition and the market entry strategy will be the key to success. Formulating the best market entry strategy requires intimate knowledge of the market: the market segments (including sizes and profitability), the drivers and practices of the segments, the main jobs to be done, the current and new ways these jobs are being done and their limitations, and the current suppliers of solutions (including their size and market share).  

Understanding the market provides opportunity to identify market entry points where there is less competition from incumbents where a beachhead can be established. This provides focus on where to fully validate the value proposition of a minimum viable product. Just as data is driving new areas in advanced manufacturing there are new data science-based tools for mapping markets and quantifying bases of competition which, particularly when combined with the principles of disruption theory, can be used to develop market entry strategies and improve the chance of adoption and success.