Digital Manufacturing, and the 4 Trends Changing The Industry

In this age of technology, it can be surprising just how much we still rely on old-school methods. Even when companies are manufacturing something as advanced as smartphones, they still use manually updated spreadsheets to keep track of production levels and the delivery process. It’s clunky, outdated, and at odds with the products being created.

Manufacturing is currently experiencing the fourth industrial revolution of its kind with applications utilizing technologies such as IoT, AI and robotics that are evolving the industry. Research suggests that by the end of this year, global manufacturers will invest $70 billion in IoT solutions and many manufacturers are implementing IoT devices to leverage predictive maintenance and sophisticated data analytics to improve productivity, availability and add value to their business offerings.

These four trends, among others are going to revolutionize the industry.

 

The Industrial Internet of Things

 

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) is the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) in industrial processes. The IIoT encompasses industrial applications, including robotics, medical devices, and software-defined production processes. The focus for the industrial internet of things is centered around machine to machine communication, machine learning and big data to create more streamlined business and manufacturing processes. 

The overall goal for IIoT is to create more efficient production lines that increase UPH, reduce human error and increase business efficiency, resulting in greater profitiablity. It’s the intersection between Information Technology and Operational Technology that is driving the need for greater connectivity between systems – resulting in better automated processes, reduction in manual tasks and optimized system integration as well as greater supply chain and logistics insights.

It’s been dubbed the fourth industrial revolution (or Industry 4.0), where data gathered by sensors in real-time blend with other sources of information to help the entire manufacturing infrastructure in its decision making. These are the processes that are making today’s smart factories, and it’s IT teams across the globe that are scrambling to find cloud-based solutions, custom softwares and hardware that facilitates this new digital age of manufacturing. The global B2B market for IoT devices is set to hit $267 billion this year according to Forbes, with 50% of that focused on manufacturing, transportation, and logistics.

The challenge for companies is to navigate their transition from manual processes and legacy systems efficiently, with extensive security considerations, integration work and complex custom softwares to be developed, IT teams and business leaders are looking to experienced software leaders like Elko as trusted advisors.

Enterprise Resource Planning

 

So ERP systems aren’t exactly a new trend. They’ve been around in the manufacturing sector for forever. Manufacturers realized early that a central digital platform to manage productivity, shipping, purchasing, logistics and HR was essential for smooth business function. Because of this most manufacturing companies have an ERP system in place that they’ve had for years. 

Many of these ERP systems have had to be regularly updated over the years, with layers and layers of code being added on top of the original product to increase functionality, often without a concrete strategy of development expertise to do it effectively. In addition to this, many of the ERP systems in use today are no longer being updated at all. Their functionality is stagnant, behind the times and the underlying code for the software is often a mess, making custom updates costly, and a nightmare that extends from weeks to months of outsourced development work.

The problem with the legacy systems installed a long time ago is that as more and more cloud-based technology, automated processes and IIoT platforms begin to get phased into the business, the older on-prem legacy infrastructure simply doesn’t work with the sensors and data points that a modern day factory needs to operate efficiently. Things get hastily bolted on to the ERP systems that aren’t designed to operate effectively in today’s cloud-centric world. 

The ERP systems are the focal point of the entire business and hence are heavily ingrained into every process. To some, it may seem insane to rip that out of the business and start again. And so, old ERP systems are still in place today, decreasing potential business efficiency and profitability. 

In many cases, companies are looking for custom software development solutions to manage the transition from legacy systems and build ERP software that meets their complex IIoT integration needs. Companies like Elko are serving the manufacturing industry needs by consulting on technological best practices for the manufacturing sector, performing the complex integration work to connect the multitude of modern day data points to both legacy, modern and custom ERP systems and assisting in the management of all kinds of IT infrastructure.

Cybersecurity

The more connected devices that you have, and the more technologies you have talking to each other, naturally there is more ground to cover with your cybersecurity measures. Penetration testing, intrusion detection,  integrity monitoring, virtual patching, advanced sandboxing analysis, machine learning, antimalware, risk detection, vulnerability assessment, next-generation firewall, anti-phishing, spam protection, and data leakage technologies all become some of the biggest necessities of the smart factory. With high profile stories of industrial espionage lately, and the PR disasters that await for companies that fail to keep their security in check – there’s no excuse for not having cybersecurity under wraps.

Additive Manufacturing

Known as additive manufacturing, the increasingly affordable technology that is 3D printing is allowing companies to reduce energy costs, prototype faster, boost production and limit waste.

Manufacturers benefit from cheaper production costs and ROI, as well as the ability to get products off the production line faster. It also gives manufacturers to produce lower volumes of items on demand rather than needing high volumes in one production cycle to be cost-effective – reducing warehousing costs and space required.

Tooling becomes much easier for manufacturers with 3D printing. Previously moulds, fixtures and jigs took months to receive from suppliers. Now, tooling can be produced on-site – reducing costs and lead times massively.

3D printing is another example of normalizing digitization in the manufacturing industry, and another example of where technological progress is paving new ground for manufacturers looking to increase their efficiency and profitability.

In Summary

 

There’s a lot going on in the manufacturing world, as every company is somewhere along the road to digital optimization. Enterprises need to make the right choices now to truly benefit from the opportunities available. Speak to an Elko expert about getting your needs, whether it be in navigating the complexities of legacy systems, IT management or in building new applications and custom softwares, we’re here to help you on that journey.

 

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