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Procurement, Industry 4.0, Cybersecurity, Robotics and Automation: The Image of Manufacturing is Evolving.

robotics and automation

What makes or breaks a new technology in manufacturing? The answer lies in how employees respond to the technology, how it benefits overall production value and if it can be leveraged directly to protect the business and consumers simultaneously. Mostly, manufacturers demand technologies that can boost their output without causing an additional strain on resources, and the final five technologies changing manufacturing in 2016 did just that. Let’s take another look at how procurement, computing power, industry 4.0, cyber security, advanced robotics and automation became top priorities for research, development, and implementation throughout the past year’s operations in the manufacturing industry. 

Advanced Robotics and Automation Have Boosted Production and Distribution.

The annual growth rate for machine learning and artificial intelligence grew more than 500 percent from 2013 through 2016. This would have meant that companies could have dramatically expanded their production value, but advanced robotics capabilities are also having an impact. Machine learning is inextricably linked to the use of robotics and automated systems, and according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the use of robotics and automation in 2016 saved $57.4 billion and $40.1 billion respectively in 2016. In fact, the value of robotics’ investments could exceed $40 billion by 2020, making way for even greater savings as new systems come online and enhance supply chains, reports Supply Chain 24/7.

 The implementation of robotics and automation was not universal in manufacturing. In other words, some manufacturers continue to resist the trend. However, saving $100 billion over one year means the use of robotics and automation have the potential to impact the industry in the most profound ways possible. Of course, a throughout examination of the savings found in the industry must also consider other technologies that are required for wide-scale deployment of robotics to be operational. For example, replacement parts and machine-to-machine connectivity must be easily accessible.

Procurement Operations Became Decentralized and Adaptable.

Procurement is also becoming more interesting and involved. In 2016, the use of X-ray fluorescence was deployed to help automakers identify abnormalities or verify exact composition of source materials, explains ThermoFisher Scientific. Meanwhile, additive manufacturing, or the use of 3D printing, has grown to encompass the use of metals as “3D ink.” This allows manufacturers to create their source materials, and when an individual product or material is unavailable, an alternate supplier may be found more quickly. In other words, procurement is starting to encompass a wide range of possibilities and adapt to the real-time demands of manufacturers.

High-Performance Computing Grew as Expected.

Less than 10 percent of IT executives in manufacturing believe their companies are indeed taking advantage of their available computing power, asserts by Govindaraj Rangan of MBH Mag. Throughout the generations of computer development, the issue of wide-scale implementation and enhancement of processes has always been at the forefront of manufacturing ideals. However, the next wave of high-performance computing is growing much more than anyone could have predicted.

Today’s computer systems can handle great security software, practically serve as a virtual assistant through increasing capacity of artificial intelligence and continue to analyze millions of individual processes faster than any human. As a result, more companies have invested in high-performance computing capabilities, generating a possible market size of $31 billion by 2019, reports New Electronics. Surprisingly, much of this investment is being generated from small to mid-sized businesses.  In other words, the push toward high-performance computing is becoming more evident as companies look toward the other trends identified earlier in 2016 for cost savings and more realization of productive potential.  

Industry 4.0 Is Bracing For the Next Wave of Advancement and Deployment.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), otherwise known as Industry 4.0, reflects the ongoing investment of connected devices into modern manufacturing. Unlike the traditional ideas of the Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0 provides automation, connectivity, and the analytics’ capabilities within the IoT, explains Industry Week. This is allowing companies to hire entirely new teams of engineers and software experts, which has changed the standard scope of a factory worker’s duties. Essentially, the use of Industry 4.0 extended machine life expectancy in 2016, and due to its relatively new analytics’ capabilities, the exact cost savings cannot yet be determined. However, initial estimates place the savings in the neighborhood of $70 billion, explains MBH Mag.

Stronger Cybersecurity and Privacy Measures Became Essential, Tantamount to Overall Productive Value.

The security of health information became front and center in recent years as the information of patients’ personal health records were subject to hacking and involuntary sharing. However, hacking of personal information in politics dominated much of 2016, and while the election may be over, the paranoia is not. According to Tim Bandos, the manufacturing industry is the biggest target for cyber security breaches and attacks after health care.

This means the information of companies’ assets, proprietary formulas or processes and financial data of consumers could be at risk. As a result, consumers are spending more time than ever considering the security of companies they buy from, which could cause profits to plummet if manufacturers fail to upgrade security standards. These upgrades were consistent with expectations in 2016, and they will likely continue to be a focus throughout the coming years as well.

The Big Picture.

The manufacturing image of an age-old man breaking his back to scrape together two items daily is practically gone. Today’s manufacturers have more technology and resources than ever before, and the improvements will not stop there. From reducing risk of injury to workers to protecting the private information of consumers and business-to-business partners, these technologies have become essential components in modern manufacturing, and businesses that do not consider their impact will face an uphill struggle in the quest for maximizing production value and reducing overhead. It is the best interest of supply chain entities and executives to look at how these technologies grew this year and what it could mean for future developments. In other words, 2016’s technologies will be a starting point for innovation in 2017 and beyond.