Many industries will experience digital transformations in the next few years, but no industry will be as profoundly affected as the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing will eagerly adopt new transformational technologies that will affect accepted ideas about what constitutes manufacturing. Here are a few of the most interesting technologies driving the digital transformations to come.

We are in a new era of digital transformation.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Projections from Statista say that nearly 31 billion devices will be connected by 2020, growing to greater than 75 billion by 2025. Many of these devices will be in manufacturing plants, where machinery and equipment will report production completions; call for their own maintenance, repairs, and service; and notify management if there is a quality issue.

Statista predicts that by 2025 we will have over 75 billion connected devices.

The result of this IoT connection will mean increased productivity and reduced downtime. There will be less lost time spent waiting for setups or time lost due to unexpected downtime. In addition, operators will be more productive since they will not have to spend time reporting production, waiting for setups or calling for parts.

Since the equipment will report out of spec production as soon as it occurs, there will be less scrap and rework, resulting in lower overall costs.

3D Printing

digital transformation - 3D printingAdditive manufacturing will be a key driver of the manufacturing digital transformation as the value in manufacturing will transfer from equipment or capacity ownership to intellectual property ownership. Rather than buy parts to be manufactured and shipped, manufacturing companies will increasingly buy the right to use another company’s design for a specified number of items which they will print on their in-house 3D printers. This will have profound effects on the manufacturing supply chain as fewer physical parts will move from place to place but more IP will move. Digital security and rights protection will increase in importance.

Companies like Boeing are already using 3D printers to print repair parts at the point of need rather than store them in central warehouses. This digital transformation has resulted in less investment in stagnant MRO inventory and more uptime for expensive airplanes.

3D printing will significantly reduce the number of physical parts that need to be shipped and instead increase the movement of IP between factories and organizations.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning

AIArtificial Intelligence will work hand-in-hand with the IoT to enable machines to fine-tune their own production processes to improve quality and improve productivity. The result will be consistent quality and little or no scrap and rework. The digital transformation powered by AI will also improve customer satisfaction, shorter lead times and lower costs.

Machine learning will transform both front and back office processes. Typical business processes such as invoicing, order entry and cash receipts will be handled by intelligent workflows that will free up human workers to focus on exceptions and value-added services that enhance customer satisfaction and intimacy.

Robotics

RobotsFrom the production floor to the warehouse, robotics is transforming manufacturing. Robots take on hazardous or delicate operations while humans monitor the action remotely. People will no longer be expected to undertake manufacturing operations in adverse environments since robots will handle the operation and deliver finished units to subsequent work centers or to finished goods.

Robots will also put away materials in the stockroom and pick and pack goods for orders. The result will be increased accuracy, higher productivity, lower costs and increased customer satisfaction.

Robots will increase efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction while reducing costs.

This change is not limited to B2C commerce, but also affects B2B companies who find a higher proportion of orders are received over the Internet, and that they are expected to deliver smaller order quantities more frequently at the same or lower cost than they have historically.

This will become increasingly important as eCommerce continues to grow, because it results in a higher volume of lower-value orders and packages, making it an ideal process for digital transformation.

Data and Analytics

digital transformation - dataConnected devices, robotics, and AI all result in massive data volumes that overwhelm traditional business intelligence tools. New big data analytics engines are able to comb these data sets looking for patterns and insight that would have remained hidden using traditional tools.

One of the largest areas of growth in manufacturing will be for data scientists and analysts who are able to organize and make sense of the data load so traditional users can harness the insight faster than ever.

Customers expect instant data and useful insights faster than ever before.

The need for speed is putting pressure on in-house IT teams to provide insight in real or near-real-time. Analytics engines will present data in easy to understand visualizations, and users will be able to ask questions using natural language or voice rather than wait for IT to construct a traditional report or inquiry. The result will be better decisions based on reality, not guesswork, and better customer satisfaction.

Customers increasingly want more intimacy with their suppliers, and the manufacturing digital transformation enables intimacy at low cost, along with faster delivery, better quality, and increased accuracy.

Prepare for Your Digital Transformation with NxRev

For manufacturers looking to begin or continue a journey to digital transformation, NxRev is an ideal company to work with. We have expertise in all these transformational technologies, and we provide the latest in connected CAD systems and 3-D printing technology. To learn more about how we can propel your digital transformation, contact us today.