The supply chain plays a pivotal role in global manufacturing; major industries and discrete manufacturers rely on the goods produced by smaller job shops and specialty contract manufacturers to serve their customers. Historically, many of those smaller operations have lacked the capital or skilled labor required to implement many internet of things (IoT) technologies that the “big guys” have been able to leverage.
As an increasing number of technology companies enter the arena and create more competition, adoption of IoT devices among smaller organizations is becoming more accessible and affordable. Here are five major technology trends contract manufacturers and job shops expect to see in 2019 and beyond:
1. Artificial Intelligence Becomes Less Artificial
The amount of data being generated by various connected devices is truly incalculable. It’s estimated that 90 percent of the world’s data was generated over the last two years alone, and the pace at which it compounds will only accelerate with the growth of IoT. Manually managing massive amounts of business data — from equipment sensors to finance to inventory to production planning and everything in between — is unthinkable. As the data grows, so will reliance on artificial intelligence (AI) to manage it all.
Futuristic concepts of robots taking over the world are an outdated view of how AI is shaping manufacturing. Emerging AI technologies are working in tandem with their human counterparts. Natural language processing and cognitive computing allow users to access information and “dark data” that was previously hidden and leverage it in ways they couldn’t in the past to make highly informed decisions and drive outcomes.
2. 5G Networks
One of the most anticipated advances in technology is a broader introduction of 5G. While much is being made of its impact on consumers and telecommunications, this buzzworthy technology will greatly influence IoT and its ability to drive manufacturing innovation further. Real-time reporting and mobile accessibility have been challenges for many manufacturers, and 5G’s ability to expand bandwidth speed, increase reliability and reduce latency will help make it more of a reality.
The implementation of 5G networks could also result in smaller, more lightweight IoT devices, which could introduce cost savings and reduce space requirements. The technology also boasts better security, allowing organizations to streamline efficiencies and reduce cyber risks. As 5G technology becomes more widely accessible, users can expect more innovative pricing and integration across enterprises. Lower energy usage may provide additional savings and result in numerous environmental benefits due to reduced emissions.
3. No More Casual Approach to Cybersecurity
Many organizations take a “wait and see” approach to cybersecurity, hoping a breach or cyberattack will never happen to them. But with an even greater onslaught of new IoT technologies and cloud integration, data integrity and privacy will take center stage. In addition to tackling outside threats, access control and authorization within organizations will increase, as well.
Companies should expect to spend more on cybersecurity in 2019 to address emerging IoT vulnerabilities. Manufacturers may find it a challenge to balance IoT’s advanced capabilities for creating an even leaner and more agile operation with the need to keep their technology secure. Upgrading to a modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and taking a look at other technologies to optimize workflows and improve compliance can help enterprises protect themselves against the latest security threats.
4. More Affordable Shop Floor Optics and Machine Metrics
Installing sensors on machinery and equipment is nothing new in manufacturing. Many of these types of IoT devices focused on predictive analytics and mechanical optimization, helping to ensure optimal uptime. Or they may have measured cycle times or other human-driven processes. Rarely, however, have IoT devices bridged the gap between humans and the machines. Those that did were reserved for large corporations with even larger budgets.
The latest advances in IoT devices, seen in Shop Floor Optics powered by MachineMetrics, allow for smaller job shops and contract manufacturers to extract and leverage equipment data like never before, resulting in as much as a 30% increase in productivity from their existing equipment and workforce. The solution isn’t just more affordable than those of the past — its installation and ramp up time is minimal (sometimes only a few hours).
The resulting full-scope view of how raw materials, equipment and people come together in real time can quickly provide significant ROI. The traditional approach to metrics could take months and even years to implement, and cost millions. Expect to see more organizations leveraging these affordable IoT solutions in 2019.
5. Tech Will Augment, Not Replace Workers
There’s much to be said for how automation and advancing technology will continue to evolve and transform the industry, but one aspect of manufacturing will always be a mainstay, at least for the foreseeable future: humans. Contrary to doomsday predictions of the past, IoT and AI will not replace entire workforces. What is changing is the way in which those skilled workers interact with each other and with the technologies they’re now required to manage and operate.
Technology provides efficiencies that allow for greater productivity, higher transparency across organizations, improved safety and granular data that allows everyone — from the production line to the corner office — to make better, more informed decisions. While machine learning allows technology to get “smarter” with time, coming up with creative solutions that differentiate a company from its competition is still the responsibility of free-thinking individuals who are willing to use technology to their advantage and drive innovation.
Merging technology with industry specialists is the refreshing approach taken by the team at Wipfli. To discuss how Shop Floor Optics, ERP solutions, Business Intelligence and other innovative technologies can help transform your manufacturing outcomes, reach out to us today for a no-cost consultation.