Equipment Manufacturers prepare for disruptive technologies

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