Manufacturers are often at the forefront of innovation. The processes and technologies they adopt tend to create a ripple effect across other industries that pushes the technological advancement envelope even further. But are manufacturers actually embracing all of the right technologies that will make the most impact on their business?
Manufacturers have acknowledged an increase in R&D investment this year, which is aligned with their top-stated operational spending priorities. These include information technology tools, new product or service development, and business technology and/or intelligence data. In spite of this, many companies are still struggling to keep up with the blistering pace of technological change. Some are finding it difficult to integrate new technologies into their production practices to maintain or boost efficiency.
Sometimes choosing the wrong tech can be even worse than no tech at all. Moreover, leveraging new technologies that don’t integrate into production processes will fail to yield the intended results to maximize productivity.
Here are some of the key tech trends that are top of mind for manufacturers, and additional considerations for them to keep top of mind.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
IIoT is the application of the Internet of Things (IoT) in an industrial setting. The umbrella term includes a wide range of technologies, such as machine-to-machine communication, big data, robotics, software-designed production processes, and machine learning. When utilized together in various combinations, IIoT technology is helping manufacturers become more reliable and efficient while optimizing their manufacturing processes. It’s empowered manufacturing businesses to predict and prevent equipment failures, reduce downtime, and improve product quality.
These dramatic operational improvements are certainly not lost on manufacturing executives. According to Forbes, 72% of manufacturing executives say they’re investing in workforce automation and 58% in artificial intelligence.
This innovative technology enables businesses to test different equipment layouts and production outputs in a virtual setting. They can even simulate things like changes in demand to model how those scenarios would play out in a real-life facility. By creating virtual models of their equipment, production lines, and supply chain operations, manufacturers can simulate the behavior of their physical systems. This lets them better predict outcomes, identify potential problems before they start, reduce costs, and maximize preventative maintenance.
Digital twins can also be used to create a digital model of products, which can then be evaluated under various conditions. This helps manufacturers catch any potential design flaws early, optimize the product for better performance, and reduce the need for physical prototypes.
Automated “Dark Factories”
These fully-automated factories operate without human intervention through the use of advanced automation technologies like robots, AI, and IoT. These automated workforces improve productivity, efficiency, and quality while significantly reducing downtime. Autonomous workers can operate at much greater speeds than their human counterparts, producing goods with greater precision and consistency.
Manufacturers deserve recognition for their forward-thinking when it comes to new technology. Their embrace of Industry 4.0 innovations like the Internet of Things, big data, and analytics have resulted in drastic improvements in efficiency and production processes. This has helped manufacturers boost their productivity and quality, and has a trickle-down effect that lifts intersecting industries and sectors.
But technology isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and a technology’s mere existence isn’t an automatic green light to run out and adopt it. With so much technology out there today, and more emerging all the time, how do manufacturers decide which are the right ones to bring into their business?
More Technology vs. the Right Technology
The rapid pace of technological advancement makes for an exciting time to be alive. In the last decade alone we’ve seen technologies go mainstream that were once strictly the stuff of science fiction. But more tech isn’t always better and doesn’t guarantee better outcomes. That’s why manufacturers have to be selective with their technology adoption, and only adopt those that lead to tangible business results.
The most successful manufacturers are laser-focused on getting the most out of their operations, technology, and people to ensure they meet production deadlines and customer demand while delivering quality products. This means identifying technological solutions that drive business results around boosting productivity and efficiency is a top priority.
Clicking deeper, manufacturers need to expertly monitor and mitigate any potential risk to their projects, portfolio, and business; while also staying on top of performance. To maximize results, manufacturers must not only focus on these goals during the manufacturing process, but from the very beginning: during the construction of their facilities.
Technology can be applied to any aspect of the business, but for manufacturers, the critical first application to set them up for success comes with the construction of new facilities and improving existing ones. By adopting the right technologies, manufacturers are able to approach these critical goals with a performance mindset. But measuring that performance requires robust data and actionable insights so manufacturers can know at a glance what needs to be optimized and where the risk in their operation lives.
Want to get your manufacturing plants up and running faster, maximize production efficiency, and start getting actionable insights from your facilities? The right technology, and the right technology partner, will help you achieve all of this throughout the preconstruction and construction of your facilities and more to enable you to focus on your core business goals and beat the competition.
Learn more by checking out how companies like Uline leverage technology to drive efficiency.