Even through uncertainties—and there has been no shortage of them in recent times—innovation in technology is maintaining its relentless pace.
Setbacks in past years have called for unprecedented ways to adapt and improve more conventional practices. As we begin to settle into the new normal, there has never been a better time to push through and explore new ideas within the manufacturing industry.
The old proverb reminds us that necessity is the mother of invention. The saying has never been more relevant than in the shift of global production and safety demands.
2022 saw a lot of promising trends that could define (or redefine) the future of the manufacturing industry. We hope these trends continue to gain traction in the new year. Now is the perfect opportunity to take a step back and assess these ideas, which might not yet be fully embraced and implemented at your organization.
5G and Edge Computing
Edge computing revolutionizes how we think about data, process information and make connections in a globalized world. As its name implies, edge computing takes the analytical power of a computer to the boundary where the physical meets the virtual.
In other words, edge computing brings the power of analytics to the handheld devices we use daily. With the wireless connectivity capabilities of 5G, edge computing enables seamless data transfer and remote control like never before.
The applications are limitless, especially with the capability to gather and analyze comprehensive real-time data. Optimizing production and streamlining supply chain operations—all while promoting a robust safety culture—ensure a boost in an organization’s overall performance.
A facility that reaps the benefits of interconnected devices has the capacity for remote monitoring, control and advanced analysis. Some of the many possible applications for edge computing include: heating and ventilation systems that recommend optimal conditions, safety sensors that pick up on potential concerns, and data backup systems that gather historical information.
Real-time safety reporting allows companies to capture leading indicators while also maintaining the capability to track traditional lagging indicators. Additionally, processes relying on pen-and-paper or spreadsheet monitoring are now able to take a step forward.
The ability to take computing power closer to the front lines eliminates inefficiencies associated with latency. For applications that require immediate actions, such as surveillance and safety detection in hazardous environments, detection urgency is the utmost priority. 5G technologies enable teams to receive data in a heartbeat, while edge computing lowers the dependency on transmission lags to get truly real-time responses.
Digitization and Automation
Emerging technology relies on the premise that data and information come in a form that enables analysis. What is even more appealing is the ability to effortlessly gather data with incredible precision.
In some cases, modern tools have the capacity to accurately monitor conditions without any human intervention whatsoever. For example, imagine having the ability to improve safety procedures while also eliminating the exposure of workers to avoidable hazards.
A smart factory is a concept that describes the operational level a facility can reach through digitization and automation. With the proper infrastructure, physically distant objects can virtually interact through instantaneous data transfer.
Sensing devices, linked through a cloud-based system, enable advanced analytical processes, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), that allow for further integration into other autonomous systems.
By having a firm grasp on a facility’s operations, companies can get a better idea of the various opportunities for automation. After all, efficiency and safety gains are the result of eliminating hazardous actions, manual work or redundant tasks.
Insights from advanced analytics can help improve maintenance schedules by automating tasks and servicing requirements. High-risk consequences that rely on urgent actions, such as safety shut-off procedures, also stand to benefit from automated responses.