While manufacturers used to rely on manual, people-centered processes, many of these tasks are now being automated thanks to technologies that eliminate or reduce hands-on work.
We’ve already made major strides in manufacturing technology, but there’s still more progress to be made. Today, we’re looking at the top technology trends in the manufacturing industry and outlining what to expect in the years to come.
7 Technology Trends in the Manufacturing Industry
1. The Industrial Internet of Things
For decades, we’ve talked about the Internet of Things, or IoT. Now, it’s time to make room for Industrial IoT, or IIoT.
Interconnected devices are useful in manufacturing settings when it comes to collecting critical data. Manufacturers can use this data to enhance and improve their processes and keep customers happy.
Take sensors, for example. When manufacturers embed them into factory machines, they can access real-time updates on how those machines are performing. This means they know when a minor issue is developing, and they can resolve it before it becomes a major breakdown.
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2. Advanced Data Analytics
IIoT and advanced analytics go hand-in-hand. While IIoT devices help manufacturers capture the right data, manufacturers also need robust programs that are capable of handling and sorting that data and then mining it for actionable insights.
With new analytical tools, manufacturers can go beyond generic data intelligence gathering. They can make more detail-rich analyses, statistical evaluations, and accurate predictions.
As they’re gathered, these findings flow into a centralized database, such as an ERP system. Here, users can access insights in real-time to make smarter decisions on the shop floor.
(Learn about the top ERP systems for manufacturing.)
In the future, we can expect these analytics to become even more sophisticated. Automated recommendations will empower self-learning supply chains that automatically adjust according to analytical results with minimal human involvement required.
3. 5G Mobile Data Network
When manufacturers move to IIoT technology, they also need to update the data network that those devices travel across. The fifth generation (5G) is the most advanced network, and it can facilitate seamless connectivity.
Manufacturers will be able to connect IIoT devices across their enterprise, including smart machines and sensors. Data from all these devices will sync effortlessly and remain up to date.
4. Digital Design and Simulation
Prototype construction is another manufacturing process being re-shaped by technology trends. While much of this process remains manual, we can expect it to become fully digitized in the near future.
With the right tools, manufacturers will be able to conceptualize and digitally construct virtual prototypes and processes. This will be made possible through computer simulation programs that mimic real-life design, simulation, and integration environments.
In turn, this will enable deeper supply chain visibility and lead to more creative and innovative designs. In addition, business leaders will have greater access to digital data across the manufacturing lifecycle, reshaping how the future factory operates.
5. Predictive Machine Maintenance
What if you knew your machine was going to break down before it happened? With predictive maintenance technology, this is possible.
These tools use sensors and artificial intelligence to detect failure patterns in machines. Over time, the tools learn how to identify and flag these patterns, alerting manufacturers of a potential problem.
If you know when your machine is likely to encounter an issue, you can protect it more proactively to avoid costly downtime.
The best part? Manufacturers don’t have to invest in expensive new equipment to take advantage of predictive maintenance tech. Most sensors can attach to older, legacy machines and deliver similar insights, alerting users on the machine’s condition and detecting any irregularities.
6. Extended Reality
Extended reality is the term used to describe any form of reality beyond the physical and tangible present.
For instance, augmented reality adds digital elements to a live view, often using the camera app on a smartphone.
Then, there’s virtual reality, which delivers a more immersive experience, replacing your real-life setting with a simulated one.
Manufacturers can use both to improve warehouse conditions, optimize the supply chain, and improve the customer experience. From enhanced product design and improved production planning to assembly line automation and immersive training, the possibilities are endless.
This is especially promising as we inch closer to the metaverse that will one day bring the internet out of our computers and into our daily lives.
7. 3D Printing
One of the top manufacturing trends is 3D printing. These tools allow manufacturers to produce products in a shorter period of time with fewer employees. Manufacturers also use fewer materials and produce less waste.
While this technology was once reserved for the industry elite, it’s quickly becoming more affordable and accessible. This means manufacturers across the globe can scale their product designs more easily and achieve more cost-effective product personalization.
In addition to applying 3D printing to current product lines, manufacturers can use these tools to expedite the rapid prototyping process, spurring innovation at a new pace.
Modernize Your Manufacturing Processes
While these are some of the top technology trends in manufacturing industry, they aren’t the only ones. There are dozens of digital tools that are reshaping the way this sector operates.
Whether you’re at the helm of a small business or a major enterprise, it’s time to learn more about how these technologies work, and what they could mean for your company in the future. Our team of enterprise software consultants is well-versed in digital transformation and the power of digitization. Contact us below for a free consultation.