An article by Mr. Vikas Gupta, PRESIDENT ( TECHNICAL) – Kanchan Metals- SME Street
As the world of technology keeps on advancing and innovating, equipment manufacturers are leveraging exciting new opportunities that allow them to redefine their operations and processes. From advanced robotics to big data analytics and computer vision in warehouses, manufacturing technologies are huge in number and bringing unprecedented transformation. The vast choice often makes it difficult for manufacturers to decide which types of technologies are worth investing in and which can wait. Some of the sophisticated technologies being leveraged by equipment manufacturers include 3D printing, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence etc. to reduce human intervention, improve operations’ speed and minimise errors.
Technological advancements have had various transformative effects on businesses. Some of these are compiling massive amounts of data for intelligent machine learning, usage of the internet by various objects to communicate etc. Such advancements have improved manufacturing efficiencies and are well-received in the sector. As we keep advancing into a new phase of industrial developments, we need to remember that the emerging industry is all about connecting humans and machines. The ongoing pandemic only accelerates the fusion.
As the trend continues, it is worth exploring the ways these technologies are fundamentally transforming the equipment manufacturing industry as we know it.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
The successful results of IoT in mainstream service industries advocated its use in production facilities. As a result, interconnected devices used within industrial production facilities are today tagged IIoT devices. The focus of IoT in the equipment manufacturing sector is on seamless process chains and networking of machines.
In industrial environments, IoT is being increasingly used for applications in automotive plants, industrial factories, pharmaceutical plants, electronics, F&B supply chains as well as in oil refineries. Some of the possibilities being created by IIoT in the manufacturing industry are optimization of processes, greater flexibility of production processes, increasing degree of automation, more accurate predictions of machine condition and more efficient maintenance etc.
The role of smart robots is expanding in industrial production and equipment manufacturing. Robots can help automate repetitive tasks, reduce errors, enhance accuracy and help manufacturers focus on more productive areas. They improve efficiency right from handling raw material to finished product packing, are highly flexible and can be customized to perform complex job and highly cost-effective even for small manufacturing units. With continuous advances in robotics technology, it is more likely to become smarter, cheaper and more efficient.
Though the technology is still in the advancing stage, it will be indispensable to every manufacturing industry soon. It can deliver highly effective results in the industry such as creating stable and effective lubricants that are required in many industrial applications. Further, tire manufacturers are using polymer nano-composites in high-end tires to make them wear resistance.
3D printing has delivered amazing results in the product design field and is all set to take the equipment manufacturing world by storm. According to Markets and Markets, the global 3D printing market size is estimated to reach USD 34.8 billion by 2024. Also known as additive manufacturing, the technology is faster, agile and innovative. 3D printing significantly reduces design to production time, offers greater flexibility in production, simplifies the production of small-lot products from machine parts to prototypes, reduces manufacturing lead times drastically, minimizes waste etc.
Blockchain is hotly tipped as a technology with huge potential to transform business and day to day life. From technological perspective, blockchain technology has pushed new boundaries but looking at its potential, a lot of disruption is foreseen in the future. Many big players are confident that it will provide real value to industries and government organisations in need of innovative solutions for record keeping. Industrial manufacturers are currently using it to secure third-party collaborations within the manufacturing industry as well as secure supply chains.
AI is being aggressively used across various sectors. Industrial manufacturers are using it on the plant floor and in the front office to automate various tasks. In the future, AI-powered forecasting will become more advanced that will help equipment manufacturers align their supply chain with demand projections.
The manufacturing industry is complex in terms of the variety of products and their features. As far as expanding production is concerned, companies can leverage big data to tackle the challenges. As the process of capturing and saving data is evolving, new standards in updating, sharing, transferring, querying, searching and information privacy are arising. When integrated with big data, manufacturing software like CMMS, MES, and manufacturing analytics can help find patterns and solve any problems. To summarise, big data ensures better quality assurance, customised product design, manages the supply chain and identifies potential risk.
Technologies for industrial manufacturing reduce labor costs and waste as well as improve efficiency, making future manufacturing cheaper and more environment-friendly. Additionally, improved quality control ensures superior equipment which benefits both the customer as well as manufacturer.