The term smart manufacturing has been around for a few years now, and, as the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to push us further and further into an increasingly connected and intelligent future. With this in mind, there a several notable trends within smart manufacturing that businesses and organizations within the field are starting to utilize and benefit from.
From enhanced cyber security systems and additive manufacturing to predictive maintenance and artificial intelligence (AI), various cutting-edge technologies are being deployed within manufacturing environments in order to better protect against cyber threats, improve maintenance and repair schedules and reduce downtime as well as collecting, processing and storing the huge amounts of data generated by many smart or Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
In this article, we’ll be looking at five smart manufacturing trends for 2018 to watch out for. As with any new or emerging technology, there are a variety of applications for the trends we feature in this list and we’ll look to detail how they’re currently being used and also how they may well be used in the future.
Before we go into our list, however, let’s take a few moments to remind ourselves what smart manufacturing is and how it works.
What is Smart Manufacturing?
To use the broadest definition possible, smart manufacturing is the process of enhancing and improving the manufacturing process using real-time communication, big data, automation and a range of other modern technologies aimed at optimizing different aspects of manufacturing. With more and more tools, equipment and machinery generating actionable data, smart manufacturing frameworks look to utilize this data in order to improve their operations and services.
As we’ve seen in recent years, technological trends come and go. However, smart manufacturing is more than just a trend. Using both the technologies mentioned on this list and various other tools and equipment, smart manufacturing holds great potential in allowing manufacturers to truly embrace the transformative power of the Internet of Things and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
5 Smart Manufacturing Tech Trends for 2018
Each year we’re seeing more and more technological innovation in nearly every industry and sector on the planet. Some of these innovations are hyped up to the max before their deployment then, once deployed, fail to make much of an impact. Others are slower in their uptake but, once integrated, can provide a plethora of benefits to those willing to take a chance on them.
This year, we’re seeing a greater focus on areas such as AI, automation, cyber security, 3D printing and AR and VR technologies. Some of these have been around much longer than others such as VR, cyber security and automation systems. Others, like AI, 3D printing and AR tech are much more recent inventions yet are beginning to have significant impacts in the sectors they are deployed into.
So, what are our top five smart manufacturing trends to watch out for in 2018?
1) Additive Manufacturing
Otherwise known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing is allowing manufacturer to create bespoke, 3D printed parts for a variety of sectors including automotive, aerospace and healthcare as well as consumer products. Using digital systems to design their products, manufacturers are able to then send those designs to 3D printers that can then produce them quickly and efficiently, saving them both time and money while also given them a competitive edge over their competition.
As 3D printing systems continue to evolve and mature, we should expect to see their use in manufacturing increase significantly. The 3D printing of houses and offices is already occurring in certain parts of the world, and we should expect trends such as these to continue to grow throughout this year and those to come.
2) Predictive Maintenance
Predictive maintenance is one of the most discussed innovations to come from both the Internet of Things and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (aka Industrial IoT). Utilizing the power of big data and automation technologies, predictive maintenance systems allow manufacturers to reduce unplanned downtime by having systems in place that detect when a piece of equipment or machinery may require maintenance or repairs and can automatically schedule them in for said repairs, meaning less disruption to services and lower maintenance costs.
Predictive maintenance could very well become a game-changer when combined with more powerful AI systems than are currently available right now. However, with the progression that’s being made on such systems, this time may not be as far away as some may think.
3) Hardening Cyber Security of OT (Operational Technology)
Cyber security has, over the past ten years or so, become one of the most essential aspects of any industrial or commercial enterprise Recent high-profile cyber-attacks on large multi-national corporations have demonstrated that no one is entirely safe from those who may wish to cause disruption and harm. However, with the advent of IoT, software-defined networking, and AI behavioral prediction systems, cyber security software has become much more capable of detecting and mitigating these threats.
There will always be a chance that a determined enough or well-resourced hacker could break through even the toughest security systems, however, with adequate security in place, your likelihood of falling victim to such an attack would be significantly reduced.
4) Augmented Reality
While virtual reality technologies have, in some form or another, been around for over 20 years or so, augmented reality systems, where virtual realities are used as an overlay for real, physical objects, is a much more recent development. Although, this hasn’t stopped it from taking the world by storm. From Pokémon Go to Microsoft’s HoloLens, AR systems are a technology that have inspired the minds of those working in a variety of different industry sectors.
While not exactly widespread at the moment, AR technologies could very much become a new norm as the sheer amount of data we generate, collect, and process continues to increase, and we find ourselves looking for news ways in which to digest it.
5) Artificial Intelligence
The race to create new and more powerful artificial intelligence (AI) technologies is by far one of the most exciting technological challenges we humans have ever undertaken. The potential of AI to completely transform nearly every aspect of our world can truly not be understated. Within smart manufacturing, artificial intelligence has a multitude of potential applications, including those detailed above.
While AI is still most certainly in its infancy, it seems likely that as these technologies are improved and then further implemented into areas such as smart manufacturing, more potential applications for them will be discovered. Advanced AI systems may even one day tell us what they could be used for.