The Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Milwaukee, has outlined five technology trends that will change manufacturing for good. The group explores emerging trends through the ConExpo-Con/Agg 365 online thought-leadership initiative, and provides this snapshot of disruptive technologies affecting members:
|Amid factory floor disruption, AEM notes, the key for equipment manufacturers will be to approach automation strategically with an understanding of what factors are most important to them related to investing in artificial intelligence, robotics and other technology.|
1. Industry 4.0: Taking technology to the next level. It’s the consensus opinion of both economists and technology experts that the world is entering a fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), with the growing digitization of processes and the interconnectivity of the goods they produce. When Industry 4.0 solutions are properly implemented, manufacturers can offer new value, including: improved resource productivity and efficiency; increased speed to market; agility and customization to meet changing and individual customer needs; and, value opportunities through the development of new services. Companies that best position themselves to capture the value of Industry 4.0 can expect success.
2. Internet of Things: Welcome to the data-driven world. IoT is ever evolving and more manufacturers are incorporating smart devices or embedded intelligence into their production (and non-production) processes as well as equipment. Manufacturers are realizing the value in taking advantage of numerous IoT benefits to develop smarter and more innovative products, increase workplace safety, improve operational efficiencies, and tackle organizational waste. One of the biggest challenges manufacturers face is determining how best to invest in and leverage IoT longer term and strategically to achieve their business goals.
3. Augmented reality: More than a game gimmick. AR allows virtual reality graphics to interact with the physical environment; from a user’s perspective, it shouldn’t be dismissed as a futuristic technological gimmick. It’s simply the next step in the ongoing evolution of how people interact with computers. Wearable-technology devices to improve safety and performance are just one aspect. Within the next three to five years, experts predict mixed reality technology will become more common in business settings. Possible manufacturing applications for AR include complex assembly, maintenance, expert support, quality assurance and automation.
4. 3D Printing: Here to stay. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing has slowly but surely developed into a disruptive technology that is convincing manufacturers to overhaul a number of expensive and archaic processes. Many manufacturers are looking into using 3D printing to making a replacement part without having the inventory in place, saving them the significant overhead costs of warehouse space. The production of molds, jigs and fixtures used in the mass production of heavy equipment presents an even greater opportunity to leverage additive manufacturing to increase operational efficiency. Using 3D printing for final production applications may become common over time.
5. Automation: Mobile robotics on the rise. Groundbreaking advancements in technology are propelling manufacturing into a new age of automation. To confront the ever-worsening skilled-worker shortage, manufacturers are increasingly looking to mobile robotics technology as a possible solution. Technology makes it possible to automate tasks not only on the on the
EU MACHINERY GROUP ALL IN ON DIGITALIZATION
Joined by smaller peer groups, the Brussels-based Committee for European Construction Equipment has drafted “European Construction Industry Manifesto for Digitalisation.” It calls for strong political leadership from the European Union; an appropriate regulatory framework on data policy; plus, budgetary focus on digital skills, research & development and information technology infrastructure. Digitalization responds to what the authors cite as the construction sector’s main challenges: lack of skilled workforce, energy efficiency, lagging productivity and sustainability.
The industry can help build a stronger economy and an inclusive society by sustaining its competitiveness on the global stage, the committee notes. “Digitalisation of the construction equipment sector has been a key priority for CECE,” affirms Secretary General Riccardo Viaggi. “We recognize the importance of working in a value chain approach and, as the Manifesto reads, all representatives pledge to collaborate intensively, to lead and support the industry in order to enable a successful digital transformation.”
“Manifesto for Digitalisation” underlines the importance of an effective regulation to ensure the sector’s competitiveness and adoption of the digital transformation, CECE observes, adding that policy makers need to prioritize the initiative within Horizon Europe, which will follow the Horizon 2020 framework. Stakeholders urge the European Commission to focus the framework program on digitizing Europe’s construction sector to strengthen its industrial competitiveness and global leadership.
To remain competitive, CECE contends, the European Union must transform itself digitally, while the construction sector—representing 8.9 percent of GDP and 14 million-plus jobs—embraces a digital transformation along the entire value chain. Building on Europe’s strength in the field of engineering and design, committee members suggest, a strong network facilitating transfer of knowledge, expertise and capabilities needs to be put in place at the EU level.