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Over the next two years, manufacturers are set to invest more than $250 billion in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and the use of technology to improve manufacturing will only increase. It is almost impossible to define the exact amount manufacturers will invest in technologies over the coming year, but they are moving toward more sustainable, cost-effective practices. Most advanced manufacturing technologies connect to the IIoT in some form, even if it is just using consumer-generated data via online shopping platforms. Let us take a closer look at some the advanced manufacturing technologies set to define the state of manufacturing throughout 2018.

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User Friendliness of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies Will Increase

The ease-of-use of technology has advanced dramatically in recent years. The rise of software-as-a-service (SaaS) management platforms and subscription-based pricing models led to increased adoption rates, and now, manufacturing software is growing easier for employees to use. Companies have the ability to access real-time information, as explained by PwC, and intelligent systems are built with artificial intelligence (AI) in mind.

Modern systems are intuitive, requiring less input from users, identifying and correcting potential problems as they arise, says Gartner. Furthermore, advanced manufacturing technologies have the ability to integrate with existing legacy systems and applications, enabling the immediate use of business data and product histories on new manufacturing software suites and platforms, without sacrificing the information held within legacy systems. Furthermore, the merging of modern and legacy systems promotes faster, more cohesive adoption rates within an organization. This is because employees do not feel that their entire world is upended by technology, reducing turnover rates and increasing morale as well.

Robotics Will Continue to Take the Place of Burdensome, Manual Tasks

Manufacturers will continue investing heavily in robotics throughout the coming year. Global spending on robotics will climb to more than $67 billion by 2025, and 2018 is expected to be the year of the first big-break returns on robotics. In fact, the surge in robotics will now enable real-world financial returns within nine months. Depending on their use, robotics are able to achieve positive ROI within three months, explains Rob Spiegel of Design News. This will spur more manufacturers to turn to robotics to automate laborious tasks wherever possible.

Part of the reason for the sudden surge of robotics and automation in manufacturing lies in the skills gap. As explained by Michael Kotelec of, up to 2 million manufacturing jobs will be left unfilled over the next decade due to improperly trained talent or a lack of individuals interested in careers in the manufacturing space. However, the use of the IIoT will effectively allow for greater use of robotics, and it will serve as a talking point, as well as a source of inspiration, for the next generation to seek careers in manufacturing. Yet, a mere 30% of US manufacturers have actively invested in advanced manufacturing technologies and resources necessary to make this possible, so manufacturers will need to begin looking at technology as a means of attracting new, qualified talent.

Use of 3-D Printing Will Evolve

3-D printing is among the most influential of the advanced manufacturing technologies that will revolutionize manufacturing in 2018. As explained by Industry Week, 3-D printing will allow manufacturers to design and define more products and services for consumers, customize consumer experiences, increase collaboration and coordination between IT staff and traditional employees and serve as a bridge between traditional shipping operations and manufacturing itself.

Augmented and Virtual Reality Adoption Rates Will Surge

More than 50% of manufacturers are actively looking for ways to engage consumers on new and improved product designs through virtual and augmented reality. Although similar, augmented and virtual-reality are different in the way they using digital information in the real world. Augmented reality uses an overlay of digital information on existing images.

For example, from where manufacturers may allow users to input facial measurements and a picture into a web generator to see how a given pair of frames will appear on a person’s face. This is augmented reality.

 On the other hand, virtual-reality is entering an entirely virtual environment, so designing a space with new furniture from the ground up, including the layout, color scheme, and specifications, would be the use of virtual reality and manufacturing. Both technologies enable the broader use of simulation and customization on all products, which increases product innovation success rate by 31%. More importantly, the use of these technologies will make a big impact in automotive manufacturing over 2018, but manufacturers are already looking at other ways to use these advanced manufacturing technologies to refine operations.

Smart Device Deployment and Sensors Will Increase Exponentially

Smart technologies, such as assistants on mobile devices, sensors, intuitive machinery and equipment and SaaS platforms, are expected to increase in deployment throughout 2018. More than 60% of manufacturers will rely on smart devices and systems by 2020, and the systems will need to support 30% of all existing operations. The introduction of Smart technologies to the manufacturing environment may also contribute to new revenue streams, such as decreased operating costs in facilities management, freeing capital for use in other parts of an organization.

The Big Picture

Technology advances more with each passing day, and manufacturing is poised to benefit to from technology in big ways throughout 2018. From increased access to user-friendly systems to easy-to-integrate systems, manufacturers could push production to new heights, but that is not the entire scope of technology’s impact on manufacturing. Up next, we will look at some of the advanced manufacturing technologies that will reshape how manufacturers manage information and interact with consumers as more manufacturers focus on customer and brand experience in 2018.