As we near the end of 2018, many companies have started looking at the new manufacturing trends 2019 will usher in. Most of the changes will fall into the broad category of digital transformation; however, digital transformation in manufacturing requires multiple interlocking factors and technologies that each reinforce and enhance the impact of the others.

Here are the main digital transformation trends in manufacturing for 2019.

The 4Th Industrial Revolution

Also known as Industry 4.0, this 2019 manufacturing trend refers to the confluence of maturing technologies that are changing the face of manufacturing. As a refresher, the first wave of the Industrial Revolution occurred with the introduction of the steam engine; the second wave occurred when electricity enabled machinery for mass manufacturing and assembly lines; the third wave ushered in the use of computerized systems such as ERP for efficiently managing manufacturing operations.

The fourth wave is characterized by the use of technologies such as big data analytics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, Nano-technology, additive manufacturing, and robotics. Those technologies with the greatest impact on digital transformation in manufacturing are covered in more detail.

Smart Connected Operations

Connected operations help improve operational efficiency by monitoring operational parameters and sending alerts when conditions approach preset thresholds. For example, when the sensors notice an excessive variation in a defined parameter, they can let management know that a tool needs sharpening, or the temperature/setup/material may need adjustment. This timely alert helps prevent the creation of scrap or rework, saving the company money.

Smart connected operations help organizations improve workflows while saving time and money.

Connected operations can also prevent unplanned downtime by notifying the maintenance team that a machine needs service, even before it fails. This can enable maintenance to schedule the PM at the least intrusive time while preventing unplanned downtime that can adversely affect delivery schedules and customer satisfaction.

Augmented Reality

Training is a costly undertaking for many manufacturers, but augmented reality (AR) can help reduce the cost while improving quality. Smart screens on the production line show workers exactly how to perform an operation so there is little risk of improper assembly or even safety violations. Creating the AR programs is faster and more cost-effective than older methods that required developing assembly and operational instructions by hand. In fact, many 3D CAD systems can create them automatically during the design phase, saving time as well as money.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

Sensor-equipped machinery can automatically send updates on production status, including units completed or the need for preventive maintenance or material replenishment. The IoT is especially helpful for operations that occur in dangerous conditions since human workers can monitor the machinery remotely. New products and services also result from the IoT, such as automatic order and delivery for consumables at customer sites. This makes the purchase of items such as paper, toners, reagents, chemicals or even safety equipment effortless for the customer while ensuring steady and timely orders for the manufacturer.

IoT and IIoT help streamline operations and help take humans out of potentially dangerous working conditions.

Additive Manufacturing

Also known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing is changing many aspects of manufacturing. For example, instead of going through multiple rounds of expensive mechanical prototyping. 3D printing enables manufacturers to create prototypes and custom components as quickly as designs change, significantly reducing the costs associated with custom one-off parts and components.

Additive manufacturing has uses well beyond prototypes. Today, faster machines operate at mass quantity rates, and the introduction of new materials has enabled 3D printing to tackle more parts than ever before. New larger printers have also increased the range of items eligible for 3D printing. No longer restricted to a few plastics, 3D printed goods are everywhere.

3D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing by speeding up development and reducing prototyping costs.

In some parts of the world, 3D printers are used to manufacture housing units or industrial buildings. The health care industry is looking at 3D printed organs such as kidneys or livers, and even food manufacturers are experimenting with 3D printed foods.

Perhaps the most exciting effect of additive manufacturing is the way it changes product design. Engineers were formerly constrained by the ability of machines to remove material from a square block of metal, limiting the ability to create lightweight or multi-hole components. With additive manufacturing, Engineers can design a component dot by dot, enabling extremely strong yet lightweight parts that improve performance and reduce costs. Modern 3D CAD systems, such as PTC Creo, incorporate the ability to design parts for additive manufacturing, helping engineers to bridge the gap between traditional methods and today’s possibilities.

Manufacturing Trends 2019 Recap

Digital transformation in manufacturing is moving quickly, and these 2019 trends are just the start of the changes. Who knows what is in store as organizations continue to use these technologies to create the products of tomorrow.

To learn more about the tools and technologies that can help manufacturers keep pace with the digital transformation in manufacturing, contact us for more insight into the future.