Technology advancements were among the most exciting topics to watch through 2016. Newer technologies have created entirely new methodologies for improving manufacturing, and the outlook is brighter than ever. Like any modern business, you can learn great things by looking back at what did and did not come to fruition. So, let’s take a look at how our predictions for the first four manufacturing technology trends (Predictive analytics, 3D Printing, and VR) to watch for in 2016 stacked up.
Predictive Analytics Became Commonplace to Manufacturing.
The use of predictive analytics has the potential to dramatically reduce expenses in the manufacturing sector, particularly with respect to proactive machine maintenance. According to Sundeep Sunghavi, the use of predictive analytics will save approximately $630 billion in the manufacturing industry over the next 15 years. Meanwhile, predictive analytics also have extraordinary potential to increase profit and determine exactly what customers want.
In other words, analytics allows companies to focus more on what customers actually purchase, using information obtained from point-of-sale (POS) systems, internet traffic and real-time feedback via social media. Ultimately, manufacturers no longer have to concern themselves with what might sell well in the coming months. Instead, they can use today’s information to create near real-time demand forecasts, allowing for immediate adjustment of production and distribution to meet changing demands. Of course, reports Predictive Analytics Times, analytics also possess potential to change how companies obtain the raw materials for their products.
For example, the analysis of procurement processes and expense trends might help companies select alternative or new suppliers, change the flow of supplies to optimize delivery time tables and enhance payment processes, such as double billing complaints. This reduces overhead while reducing costs and issues experienced by the consumers.
Virtual Reality Has Taken Over Consumer-Facing and Business-Facing Operations.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are changing how everyone views the world. VR headsets have become among the most popular gifts for consumers during the holiday season, and the technology is gaining notoriety among manufacturers as well. Augmented reality is essentially identical to virtual reality. However, augmented reality typically involves a computer overlay on a person’s existing view. VR tends to replace the entire image. In manufacturing, this means engineers, repair workers and factory employees will be able to use augmented reality to complete tasks faster than ever before.
For example, the aeronautics’ giant, Lockheed Martin, has embraced augmented reality during the manufacturing and repair processes, explains Industry Week. While this might seem minimal, it actually implies accuracy and training will be much more efficient. Essentially, workers will not have to figure out what is wrong, and they can be directed on how to complete their duties without extensive classes or degrees.
Connected Products Are Increasing in Number.
Remember when the Internet of Things (IoT) first burst onto the scene through the General Electric commercials? Well, that image of talking trains and cars is growing larger. Uber, Google and other auto giants are starting look at self-driving cars as a reality within the next few years. According to Business Insider, major companies from all industries are starting to look at the IoT as a source of inexhaustible revenue and productivity, including Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Cisco, Epson and more.
Initially, experts predicted investments into the IoT through 2020 might top $5.649 billion, but even the smaller side of the spectrum of actual investments today seem much higher. Manufacturers are expected to spend more than $70 billion by 2020 in IoT technologies, enhancing machine-to-machine connectivity, reducing downtime, integrating predictive analytics capabilities and revolutionizing the manufacturing supply chain. In fact, 97 percent of manufacturers cite the IoT as the most important technology to impact the industry, explains a survey by Zebra Technologies, reports Macrofab. Clearly, the IoT has caught on much faster than experts could have hypothesized.
Use of 3D Printing Advanced and Became More Affordable.
Additive manufacturing, which describes the ability to manufacturing parts in addition to traditional factories, is making amazing strides with 3D printing technologies. Additive manufacturing is expected to climb more than $20 billion by 2019. However, the savings for the auto industry alone might amount to more than this figure.
For example, only 15 to 20 percent of the auto industry has tapped the potential of additive manufacturing for boosting output and repair timeline. However, this minimal fraction of automakers has already set the path to create more than $2.3 billion by 2021. Now, imagine how that statistic could change if all automakers were to embrace the technology. Yet, 3D printing is not simply for repairs. Molten metal is being used in 3D printers to build complete cars, reports Machine Design, and this possibility alone has eliminated the entire labor cost associated with vehicle manufacturing. When deployed on large-scale production, the potential savings could easily supersede the $20 billion prediction.
Ultimately, more businesses are starting to see the value in investing with high-quality 3D printers, not run-of-the-mill systems, enabling better quality end products and superior productivity.
The Big Picture.
The secrets to advancement often lie in the undiscovered and novice technologies. However, technologies impacting manufacturing throughout this year have been around for years. Ironically, manufacturers appear to be on the cusp of the next breakthrough, destroying barriers to increased responsiveness, real-time customer service repairs and replacements and beyond. The limitations of manufacturing are quickly vanishing, but more evidence of this technology revolution in manufacturing can be found by looking at the final five trends identified earlier this year.