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Top Smart Manufacturing Tech Trends

ICT | Mar, 2023

Manufacturing has remained a major global driver of economic growth. The manufacturing sector accounts for 16% of global GDP. In response to global disruption spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters, geopolitical turmoil and fluctuating energy costs, the manufacturing industry underwent a disruptive transformation. Now manufacturers are turning to technology—from advanced robotics in R&D labs to computer vision in warehouses-- to digitize and automate operations and remain competitive. Nearly every manufacturing vertical is embracing technological innovations, which has led to the evolution of many smart manufacturing trends. Rising trend of Industry 4.0, deployment of edge cloud in factories, and rollout of 5G are enabling manufacturers to achieve higher energy efficiency, meet sustainability goals while preventing sudden manufacturing and supply disruptions. Development plans focused on digital technologies are becoming an integrated part of business strategy. 

As data-driven approach is taking over the manufacturing industry, smart manufacturing is becoming a necessity rather than a choice. The integration of physical and digital within factories, warehouses, and other supply chain functions are expected to revolutionize the global manufacturing market. Here are some of the top smart manufacturing tech trends expected to drive the market growth in 2023.

Smart Factories

Smart factories represent a shift from traditional automation to connected systems to make use of the data for better productivity and efficiency in operations. The smart factory enables manufacturers to optimize performance, making high-speed decisions, run the entire production processes by itself while connecting to a global network of similar systems. For instance, IoT systems collect manufacturing data, provide real-time visibility into assets and equipment, quality of processes and factory resources, which help to produce digital factory simulations that predict how a product would turn out once manufactured. 

As business leaders are recognizing the importance of digital transformation, smart factories are becoming increasingly prevalent. Besides, growing need to meet consumer expectations are leading to increasing investments by companies to invest in supply chain automation. Moreover, digital work instructions enable employees including workers, dealers, field service technicians, etc. to complete assembly, installation, maintenance, or repair procedures. Artificial intelligence and machine learning personalize instructions to each worker’s proficiency level, which helps workers improve their performance. 

Global personal care major Colgate-Palmolive has been heavily investing in digitization of its business. The brand has a fully integrated and automated facility with a connected end-to-end supply chain that combine human and intelligent machines for highly optimized processes. 

American multinational corporation, Tyson Foods has invested approx. USD600 million to drive automation by building new capacities as a part of its productivity plan announced in 2021. The company has planned to open 12 new factories with enhanced focus on improving automation and tech, as well as digitization and advanced analytics within the prepared foods sector.

Autonomous Mobile Robotics

An autonomous mobile robot (AMR) utilizes software and artificial intelligence to move through its environment without any external supervision and carry out the required task. AMRs can be used as fetch-and-carry workhorses for inventory and parts, which could save workers time in travelling large distances to simply transport parts and thus help carry out jobs effectively and quickly. Even repetitive jobs like welding, spray painting, especially in hazardous areas can be assigned to AMRs to improve workers’ safety.

Implementing cobots, or collaborative robots in factories can increase productivity rates by up to 85%. Also, the affordability of cobots allows manufacturers to earn in return on investment quickly. Since cobots are extremely versatile, cobots can be programmed to complete a variety of tasks and hence facilitate flexibility within the manufacturing process. These robots are designed to be user-friendly and eliminate the need for external technicians. Recently, automation company, ABB recently launched the SWIFTI CBR 1300 industrial cobot with an expanded load handling capacity of up to 11 kg. The robot can be used in a variety of production and product handling applications and help improve efficiency up to 44%. 

Additive Manufacturing

The rising impact of additive manufacturing or 3D printing across various industries is exhilarating. 3D printing has moved beyond product prototyping and consistently evolved to find their potential in real-world manufacturing. AM technologies can generate almost any 3D shape from computer-aided design models by successively adding material layer by layer, allowing designers to create parts that perform better. Recent advances in machinery, materials, and software have made 3D printing more mainstream beyond a few high-tech industries. 

Aerospace and Defense industry, one of the earliest adopters of 3D technologies for manufacturing are now looking forward to use AM techniques to build rocket engines and create parts for long-duration missions. The AM market for the aerospace & defence industry is projected to cross USD7 billion, owing to increasing investments by aerospace companies like Boeing into additive manufacturing technologies to improve fuel efficiency in aircrafts.

 As innovation in the automotive industry is moving faster than ever, auto manufacturers are continuously engaging in research and development to create better products. With the increasing consumer demands for electric vehicles and self-driving cars, the adoption of additive manufacturing for better fuel efficiency with less vehicle weight. Besides, 3D printing allows customization, one of the most popular trends in automotive industry. This makes it easy for the manufacturers to create custom parts that would otherwise required to be machined or molded and thus streamline these processes. 

With rising focus on sustainability, manufacturers and brands are moving to reduce their impact on the world with additive manufacturing technologies. In 2023, automated additive manufacturing systems are expected to become mainstream. The automation would enable manufacturers to not take care of order management, printing, material manufacturing, and post-processing. Besides, automation in smart manufacturing would help companies achieve cost economics, cut down health risks, and enhance effectiveness of operations.

Predictive Maintenance Technology

In the next five years, the level of machine automation in supply chain processes is expected to double, with rising global spending on IIoT platforms and growing need to maximize productivity by reducing uncertainties. Accurate inventory management to prevent overstocking, inadequate stocking or unexpected stock-outs can help save time and prevent errors. Besides, AI systems can even predict and help discover new consumer habits while reducing the costs of overstocking unwanted inventory. Moreover, AI-based automation can assist in ensuring timely retrieval of an item and facilitate smooth journey for the customer, which can accelerate complex procedures and speed up work. 

Some firms are populating their factories with sensors to predict machinery problems. Startups involved with the manufacturing of technology designed to predict industrial equipment failures, unexpected breakdowns, interruptions, and incremental costs for replacements parts are witnessing a surge in demand. Predictive maintenance tech startup Augury has developed sensors that listen to machinery problems, which has helped Frito-Lay add some 4000 hours a year of manufacturing capacity, equivalent to several million pounds of snacks coming off the production line. Some other customers of the predictive maintenance technology of Augury include DuPont De Nemours, Hershey Co., Colgate-Palmolive, and roughly one hundred beverage and food producers, pharmaceutical forms, consumer packaged foods, and other large-scale manufacturers. 

According to TechSci Research report on “United States IoT in Manufacturing Market, By Component (Solutions, Platforms and Services), By Application Area (Predictive Maintenance, Business Process Optimization, Asset Tracking & Management, Logistics & Supply Chain Management, Real-Time Workforce Tracking & Management, Automation Control & Management and Emergency & Incident Management, & Business Communication), By Vertical Market (Energy & Utilities, Automotive, Food & Beverages, Aerospace & Defence, Chemicals & Materials, High-Tech Products, Healthcare and Others), By Company, By Region, Forecast & Opportunities, 2017-2027”, the United States IoT in Manufacturing Market is predicted to grow at a significant rate during the forecast period. The market growth can be attributed to the rising adoption of new technologies, growing investments in R&D and the emergence of intelligent machine applications.