Manufacturing is entering a digital revolution that will fundamentally shift the way that businesses in the sector operate.
The next manufacturing age, known as Industry 4.0, shares several goals with the previous three industrial revolutions. These include increased speed to market, quality and cost-effectiveness.
However, the similarities end there. Where mass production and global economies of scale were game changers in earlier chapters, the factories of the future aim for greater flexibility and individualisation.
A range of developing technologies are challenging existing production models by enabling secure, plant-wide connectivity between machines, people, information and business processes. These include:
The Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT is a network of interconnected devices, machines, vehicles, objects and even living beings that have unique identifiers and the ability to share data without human involvement. Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be around 25 billion interrelated objects globally.
These cyber-physical systems are finding their way into the industrial environment where they can become powerful structures that process vast amounts of data in real-time and translate this into intelligent courses of action on the plant floor and beyond.
Advanced data collection and analytics
The amount of data generated by businesses and customers in the manufacturing sector is growing at an exponential rate. As computational power intensifies, firms are able to accumulate, mine and analyse vast and complex datasets to better mitigate risk, increase efficiency, understand market needs and grow new income streams.
While most firms are only beginning to understand the potential of the ‘big data’ trend, today’s manufacturers need a strategic plan for collecting and organising data – which ties in with how they imagine using that data to create value in the future.
Robots that can work safely alongside humans are entering the realm of reality – and this development is set to transform plant floor work environments sooner than most manufacturers imagine.
Thanks to visual analysis, enhanced context awareness and machine learning, analysts predict that industrial robots will work alongside humans in the front-line – performing more complex tasks with increased agility. These smart machines will be able to anticipate needs and meet them, instead of only carrying out set tasks.
Additive manufacturing (AM)
3D printing technology is advancing fast, enabling the production of solid objects from a digital data source. The benefits for manufacturers include the ability to create prototypes quickly and yield small batch sizes, or even individual products, with fewer resources.
This trend could eventually lead to more manufacturers diversifying their revenue streams by selling product blueprints to customers, who would then take care of the actual ‘printing’ process at home.
Low- or no-code business applications
As the trends mentioned above create new lines of business, manufacturers may have to rethink their IT infrastructures. In the face of evolving market demands, an agile business process application that can integrate seamlessly with existing frameworks is an ideal solution.
While traditional hand-coded business applications can be costly and time-consuming to build, test and install, innovative low- or no-code platforms are emerging. These ground-breaking business applications can be visually configured by users who are not professionally trained developers. This allows for rapid deployment and therefore more flexibility in uncertain market conditions.
Low- or no-code business applications provide manufacturing firms with a scalable platform that quickly bridge gaps between people, data, decisions and systems across the organisation.
These technologies are poised to be a major catalyst for growth across the sector, enabling manufacturers to ramp up productivity and output, as well as focus on new business interests. Exploring the potential of these technologies now can make or break your business success in the future.
K2 turns complex work into powerful business process applications. With K2’s application platform, organisations can use visual designers to rapidly build and deploy low-code apps that are agile, scalable and reusable — resulting in modern processes that quickly and easily connect people, data, decisions and systems.
To find out more, visit www.k2.com