For quite some time, Industry 4.0 technologies – like the Internet of Things (IoT), additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual, augmented and mixed reality – have slowly started making their way into factories and transforming how manufacturers operate. Keen to maintain their operations remotely and avoid partial or total shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, many manufacturers turned to digital solutions and technologies in an effort to keep the lights on and remain operational.
Now, as manufacturing brands adjust to what is being termed the “next normal”, business leaders and executives are grappling with the longer-term question: What will the world of manufacturing look after COVID-19?
According to McKinsey, given the fact that these tools and technologies have helped companies transform their entire operations, with massive improvements in speed to market, production efficiency, service effectiveness and new-business model creation, it only makes sense for the industry to embrace this momentum and continue to leverage these solutions to rethink the work they do and adapt accordingly. There is no doubt that challenges exist but there is also great deal to be gained as manufacturing companies leverage these technologies to totally transform the work they do. Here are a few examples.
Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) are great tools for manufacturers looking to reduce the learning curve when training new employees. These virtual environments mimic production equipment so that employees can receive important hands on training in less time.
With AI and IoT, manufacturers can collect, analyse, and utilise data from various sources and then apply intelligent algorithms to anticipate any issues before they happen. This allows manufacturers to schedule maintenance and ensure that devices are fixed before a total failure occurs.
According to a recent survey by market research firm, GatePoint Research, modern manufacturers have to deal with growing complexity across their supply chains and distribution channels. As such, they are always looking for ways to improve their production processes. Using MR, IoT and other digital tools, companies are able to gather all the data they need to improve and streamline their operations and, in doing so, up efficiency.
As mentioned earlier, the coronavirus pandemic saw many manufacturers utilising new tech to maintain their operations remotely. In some cases, this made it possible for plants to continue operating despite global lockdowns. The added benefits of remote access include improved response times and the elimination of employee travel time and expenses. This technology also makes it possible for more specialised staff to work on multiple projects at once.
The year 2021 is set to bring about a new era for most industries and despite its previously conservative technology approach manufacturing is one of them. To access more innovation and technology content like this, subscribe to our monthly newsletter.