Moving beyond labour productivity and asset-efficiency, the next performance leap in factories and manufacturing floors will be through end-to-end effectiveness of extended production systems. Tackling issues like deployment in scale, effectiveness in operations and efficiency by design can be instrumental in shaping the future of manufacturing and supply chains. The big question for 2020? Which technologies will warrant the investments required to steer the ongoing digital transformation and embrace what Industry 4.0 promises.
Manufacturers adopt cloud computing
Although industry’s adoption of digital technologies like cloud computing has been a slow one, the tide is turning with a greater uptake expected in 2020.The manufacturing, aerospace and defence sectors will begin to consume services from the cloud and move beyond projects running on capex intensive legacy IT systems. This would be a big move particularly for the aerospace and defence industry where security is of paramount importance.
Automation makes software smart
The manufacturing industry in the UK is looking to take up automation in many areas, particularly in repetitive, low value tasks. These tasks can be handled by software bots and machine learning – becoming more ‘intelligent’ as it learns the tasks along the way, allowing humans to innovate and evolve skills as software supplements human intelligence. As more traditional and routine tasks become automated, organisations are placing a premium on soft skills, from self-awareness to relationship management and communication, according to a recent report from the Capgemini Research Institute, Emotional Intelligence – the essential skillset for the age of AI
Greater usage of augmented reality / virtual reality (AR/VR)
After years of maturing, AR/VR is finally starting to find a natural home on the shop floor. Manufactures have seen the value of these technologies in the simulation of the reconfiguring of factory floors or production lines and the simulation of working tasks. It also speeds up workforce training, ensuring more time is spent on the shop floor leading to increased productivity in a shorter time-span. With an aim to solve specific business problems. 2020 will see greater adoption of AR/VR.
AI will come naturally with enterprise applications
The megatrend for the next five years for the manufacturing industry is that of artificial intelligence (AI) being embedded in almost all enterprise apps. One of the main use cases of AI will be in computer vision: the ability of artificially intelligent systems to “see” like humans – a subject of increasing interest and rigorous research for decades now. With computer vision embedded in the machines, manufactures will be able to understand the working models of machinery and preferred setting for different workloads, among other uses.
Productivity takes centre stage
According to the Office of National Statistics, productivity in the UK fell at its fastest annual pace in five years in 2019. Conscious of this, manufacturers are looking to adopt latest technologies like IIOT and automation to improve output. To make this possible, 2020 will see a rise in the use of cobots. Working side by side with humans, cobots can complete complex or repetitive tasks, allowing highly skilled human workers to make use of the superior speed, strength and precision that cobots bring, allowing for greater efficiency and an increase in productivity on the shop floor.
In short, while the manufacturing sector has been slow in its adoption, the use of many latest technologies on the shopfloor and up/down the supply chain is set to become ubiquitous for the industry at large. A recent report from the Capgemini Research Institute, Smart Factories @Scale, , shows organisations worldwide are showing an increasing appetite for smart factory initiatives and one-third of factories are already smart.