The real power of the latest technology suites, including additive manufacturing, is alongside existing production solutions.
Producing large volumes of product reliably, repeatably and affordably is the increasingly-reachable carrot-on-a-stick for 3D printing as improvements are made in hardware speed and quality, design capability in software and widening portfolios of engineering-grade materials suited for manufacturing environments.
The digital factory will change the nature of manufacturing—from mass production to product customization—and allow companies to respond instantly to changes in customer demand or the inevitable production variation, such as supply disruption. It can lead to gains in productivity, performance, output, and market share as well as better control and visibility in the supply chain, and digital innovation can help manufacturers create capacity to enable more profitable growth.
eople are willing to take on low-skilled, manual labor positions, and our economic landscape is driving much of that change. In the U.S., employment growth for occupations requiring higher levels of physical skills rose just 18 percent between 1983 and 2015. In comparison, overall employment grew by 50 percent during the same time frame. Robots and other automation technology are filling the gap of workers who are no longer interested in doing the type of hard, manual labor common in industries like manufacturing.
Canadian brewer, Sleeman, teamed up with McRae Integration, a Toronto firm that helps factories automate, and Rockwell Automation, a Milwaukee provider of manufacturing technology, to streamline its production process. The need was compelling: Large brewers like Sleeman have been losing market share to craft brands. To compete, they need to boost productivity and increase yields while developing smaller-batch beers.
Today, Sleeman can control the line through a digital console. The new system also automatically assesses which parts of the plant can continue operating while he has stopped one portion to alter the recipe. “All of these small intuitive processes can add up to a significant reduction of the brew-cycle time,” says McRae president Andrew Bentley, who estimates four to eight hours is saved per day.
Fifteen years ago, New York City was a tech afterthought. Today, it is ranked the second highest performing startup ecosystem in the world after Silicon Valley. More significantly, in certain tech sub-sectors it beats Silicon Valley at its own game, a trend that may continue.
New York City is among the leading locations in three of these subsectors. In advanced manufacturing, it hosts the most 3D printing activity in the world. NYC also boasts city-specific initiatives that foster the progress of advanced manufacturing. New Lab, based in Brooklyn, is a multi-disciplinary technology center and public-private partnership focused on advanced manufacturing that hosts over 100 companies.
One of the key drivers of accelerated adoption of industrial robots through the 1980s and beyond was worker safety. We hear much about job losses due to robots, but little about improvements in injury rates thanks to robotic handling. Strenuous and repetitive tasks such as palletizing, or hot and dangerous part handling in metal fabrication, were given over to robots.
Every industrial robot currently requires mechanical, electrical, and software care that wasn't required by older technology. So while unskilled labor may slowly dwindle, higher-level (and therefore higher-paid) opportunities will expand.
Collaborative robots, otherwise known as cobots, have wowed the robotics industry with their unique capabilities representing some of the most exciting advancements in robotic technology today. With the flexibility of cobots, companies can automate even the simplest of tasks. Regardless of the scale of output, cobots can be deployed for processes that are repetitive, manual, or potentially strenuous for workers – such as pick and place, packaging and palletizing, screw driving, gluing, dispensing, and welding.
Digital manufacturing is rapidly changing the fundamentals of how products are developed, scaled and manufactured. By digitizing traditional manufacturing methods, including injection molding and CNC machining, and leveraging newer technologies, like 3-D printing, the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), companies are optimizing their supply chains, reducing development cycles, increasing efficiencies, and driving down costs.
Despite enthusiasm for digital manufacturing, few companies have realized its potential at scale, according to a new survey by McKinsey. While there is significant importance placed on the topic and many pilots have been launched across a range of use cases, less than a third of respondents cite having moved critical use cases—such as digital performance management—into large-scale rollout. At the same time, more than 90 percent of surveyed companies believe that they are either at the forefront of digital manufacturing in their industry or, at least, on par with the competition.
IIoT is transforming the way manufacturers identify problems on the plant floor as the latest wireless solutions address integration challenges. IIoT eliminates data silos, so device-level data is accessible to the entire operations team. It provides valuable insights into machine performance, process inefficiencies and other potential risks. In this smart environment, wireless sensors enable real-time remote monitoring of machine performance. Manufacturers can use the information to increase overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), which is a calculation of manufacturing process efficiency.
In their new book, Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI, Paul Daugherty and James Wilson make a compelling case for pairing this particular technology with human capital. In their research, they found that companies that focus on human and machine collaboration create outcomes that are two to more than six times better than those that focus on machine or human alone. For instance, BMW has found that robot/human teams were about 85% more productive than the old assembly line process, where you had industrial robots over on one side of the factory and people working on an old automated assembly line.
Capgemini found that the successful manufacturers have mastered the use of data from smart, connected products to build actionable insights. 93% of digitally successful manufacturers have mastered the ability to use data from smart, connected products to gain insights into how they can improve product designs and manufacturing techniques.