As companies continue to look for ways to cut costs, improve efficiencies, and keep pace with changing customer demands, they’re looking at smart tools to help them refine their manufacturing techniques. These tools are designed to make manufacturers more productive, but more importantly, agile enough to weather the ebbs and flows of a supply chain constrained post-pandemic economy.

In this economy, successful businesses will be those that embrace the latest smart manufacturing trends. While the market is full of innovative new solutions, here are eight to focus on. 

8 Smart Manufacturing Trends for 2022

1. Industrial Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) has long connected employees, devices, and data across geographical borders. However, this year is all about Industrial IoT (IIoT). 

These tools give companies access to real-time asset performance monitoring from any location. Operators and supervisors can use IIoT to see visually dynamic, historically contextualized views of any facility asset.

Relying on easy-to-understand graphical formats, employees can spot potential issues before they occur and take immediate action. They can also leverage up-to-date machine data to make smart business decisions about which assets to repair and replace.  

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2. Automation of Manufacturing Operations

Research shows that the vast majority of automated solutions are employed in manufacturing environments. Specifically, manufacturers use more than 82% of all industrial robots.

Moving into the second quarter of 2022, this trend is set to continue. However, instead of just robots, organizations are now focused on cobots.

Standing for “collaborative robots,” these automation machines are designed to work alongside human employees to accomplish tasks. They can do so thanks to smart technology and safety features that make such work possible.

Cobots first came on the scene in 2021 when manufacturers used them to comply with social distancing protocols without sacrificing production output. 

3. Supply Chain and Logistics Management

In 2022, customers continue to demand visibility from the manufacturers they trust. To meet these expectations, as well as regulatory traceability guidelines, companies are looking for smart tools that allow them to capture every step of their supply chain and logistics operations.

Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are two of those tools. These solutions help manufacturers centralize their disparate data sources (e.g. ,CRM, ERP, MES, and SCM software) so they can analyze and act on those insights and remain agile.

(To learn about the best enterprise software for manufacturing, read our blog post, Top ERP Systems for Manufacturing.)

In addition to ML and AI, many organizations are turning to Blockchain technology to increase transparency and trust as well as address common logistics management challenges, such as:

  • Supply chain monitoring
  • Asset tracking
  • Counterfeit detection
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Quality assurance
smart manufacturing future trends

4. Digital Twins

A digital twin is a type of CAD-based technology. These tools use sensors to create virtual copies of assets, such as:

  • Objects
  • Systems
  • Processes
  • Production lines
  • Manufacturing components

As critical tools for digital transformation, digital twins enable manufacturers to simulate a product or environment before they create and implement it. This way, they can troubleshoot, adjust the design, and optimize the overall product development cycle before taking it to market.

For digital twins to be accurate, they must be built on full-field data. This is achievable through 3D printing, so the two smart technologies often go hand-in-hand. 

5. Wearables

If you own an Apple Watch, you’ve seen wearables in action. As their name implies, these are devices that you wear on your body to track and record certain data.

While the Apple Watch monitors your health status, there are other types of wearables that deliver business insights. In manufacturing, these tools help workers stay safe, address issues, and optimize product quality.

For instance, there are smart wristbands that alert employees if a surface is too hot to touch or a piece of equipment is malfunctioning. With these real-time insights, they can make quick decisions to avoid injury and protect others around them. 

6. Data Visualization Tools

Manufacturers look for a range of different metrics when capturing and analyzing data. This year, they’re shifting from a more traditional model to an automated, highly visual one.

Instead of rows of numbers on a spreadsheet, organizations now have access to interactive visual data they can manipulate and use as required. This is achieved through 3D scanners, which quickly collect visual, geometric measurements so users can see what’s happening during any process, at any time.

Manufacturers can view these updates to make quick decisions, prevent bottlenecks, and improve employee productivity.

7. Sensor Technology

Manufacturers must have the ability to know when a machine is on the fritz. For this reason, sensor technology has been steadily on the rise for years. In 2022, it’s expected to become even more popular. 

These sensors affix to machines and deliver real-time updates on the status of their condition. Executives can access these reports to monitor the health and condition of their assets, making maintenance actions more effective, extending equipment lifespans, and ensuring higher-quality outputs. 

8. Additive Manufacturing

In recent years, manufacturing technology trends have centered around one promising tool: 3D printers. It’s no different this year, as business leaders continue to use these printers to move ideas from concept to completion at faster rates than ever.

For now, the systems are mostly used to prototype products quickly and cost-effectively. As we move into the future, 3D printing is poised to change the way manufacturers create custom, finished products at scale. 

Are You Ready to Make 2022 the Year of Innovation?

Emerging from a two-year period of setbacks and industry changes, manufacturers are ready to make 2022 the year of innovation. They’re doing so through tools that enable them to capture new data insights, expedite production, and improve operations in smarter ways. 

All these smart manufacturing trends can lead to cost reduction and shorter time to market, while improving safety and security. They also can enable differentiating capabilities through IoT customizations.

While we’ve outlined many of the top smart manufacturing trends shaping the industry, there are other tools and solutions you may want to implement. Our ERP consulting team can help you navigate the options and discover which technologies align with your goals. Contact us below for a free consultation.

About the author

Sreenivas is an innovative, goal driven, and versatile technology leader with experience effectuating corporate strategies into successful technology solutions to achieve business goals. He is an expert leader of technology initiatives, with a strong focus on architecting, modernizing, and integrating technologies to maximize business productivity and efficiency. He has vast experience in managing ERP implementations for large manufacturing companies and leading Hi-Tech IoT initiatives across various domains.

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