Emerging Technology Is Transforming Manufacturing

Manufacturing is facing major changes - not just since Industry 4.0. At the same time new opportunities are opening up faster and faster through emerging tech.

Manufacturing Today

Manufacturing is a special field. 

On the one hand, the slogan „never touch a running system“ is the maxim for some production managers. This way of thinking is typically found in areas with strong audit requirements, such as in the medical industry.

On the other hand, there are production managers who are real innovators. Following the value proposition of Industrie 4.0, they use technology to improve quality, reduce delivery times or increase efficiency in their factories.

Digitization will take active players to a whole new level of competitiveness. Volkswagen with it‘s Digital Production Platform, for example, wants to increase the efficiency of its more than 120 factories worldwide by 30%.

The meaning for competitors is clear: Move or get left behind.

Picking up Speed

Nine years after the introduction of the term Industrie 4.0 we are still only at the beginning of this (r)evolution in manufacturing.

Nevertheless, many companies still struggle with various challenges. The melting of IT and OT, security and networking issues, device management, the spread, penetration and at the same time dependency of software is critical for important manufacturing processes, where downtimes easily cost six-digit numbers per hour.

These are major obstacles that hinder the speedy adoption of state of the art technology in manufacturing today.

However, the next wave of emerging technology with disruptive character is already visible. Let us take a look at some examples.

Emerging Tech in Manufacturing

Much has been written about 5G and it‘s disruption potential. Audi and Ericsson give a prominent example of how to leverage this technology, called Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC),  for human-robot collaboration. 

In the past, these use cases typically relied on a cable-based Fieldbus technology with latencies below one millisecond. This is now possible with 5G, enabling completely new automation infrastructures with much less cabling effort. Even for safety applications.

Speaking of wireless communication, scientists of the Fraunhofer IOSB-INA currently test visible light for data transmission in the connected industry. The light spectrum is 4000 times larger than the radio spectrum. Other than 5G there are no license fees. Additionally, attackers from outside the factory have no attack vector.

Maybe visible light will never make its way into our factories for data transmission. Nevertheless, it shows how broad the field of emerging technology for manufacturing is.

5G, Visible Light, AI and 3D Printing

Artificial Intelligence (AI) alone has so many sub-areas and innovations. Legions of scientists and experts spend their whole lives working on it. One recent example of innovation is Deep Learning (DL). DL is now heavily being used for automated quality inspection in manufacturing.

But also the megatrend 3D Printing will transform manufacturing and its supply chains as we know it. Seeing the complex and global dependencies in the context of the coronacrisis will make top management think twice in terms of risk management.

Already today it is common that e.g. electronics productions 3D-print their own PCBs for small lot sizes. Looking to the future one could easily imagine where this will lead.

Image source: Pixabay, Pixabay License

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