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Top New Trends in Industrial Automation

Industrial automation technologies have advanced significantly in recent years and are transforming the way manufacturers operate. Many concepts have evolved that describe this digitalization of manufacturing – Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0, Edge computing, and so on. These concepts are now actively being deployed across many industries, allowing manufacturers to reap the benefits of these technologies now as well as position themselves to remain competitive in the future.

When the right industrial automation technologies are implemented, the result is reliable and efficient manufacturing. That said, manufacturers may be overwhelmed by the number of digitalization technologies available. This is why it is important to partner with automation experts, like Concept Systems, that will guide you through the technology selection and implementation process. Concept works with customers to clearly understand the problem they need to solve, and then recommends automation solutions that address this need. Additionally, Concept ensures that digitalization technologies are scalable and simple in nature.

Below are some of the top new trends in industrial automation. These technologies are occurring today and their usage is expected to spread as we transition further into Industry 4.0.

 

Further Expansion of IIoT: due to the IIOT, use of connected devices in manufacturing is becoming the norm. Manufacturers are using predictive maintenance programs to monitor equipment real-time to improve responsiveness and achieve fewer unplanned outages – the result is safer operations, lower costs and higher customer satisfaction. The IIoT is expected to continue to expand its reach and impact not only maintenance programs but other areas of the business such as how manufacturers manage inventory and equipment lifespans.

Growth of Edge Computing: the Internet of Things has resulted in an influx of connected devices and data generated by these devices. The significant increase in data from devices that operate 24/7 is often causing bandwidth issues and slow processing times. Edge computing, which gets its name from devices on the “edge” of the network, was developed to address these issues. This technology shifts information storage and processing away from data centers, and closer to the location where it is needed which is often the device itself. Additionally, a combination of cloud and edge computing is proving to be an excellent approach; for example, companies can deploy edge devices that communicate with edge servers under a cloud infrastructure. Edge computing allows connected devices to utilize more real-time data for process control and business decisions. As more and more IoT devices are employed, Edge computing is expected to spread.

Increased Implementation of VR and AR Tools: knowledge transfer and retention is always a challenge for manufacturers; fortunately, new tools are becoming available to address this issue – two of these are Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). AR and VR are both interactive experiences and the key difference is that VR replaces the user’s environment with a completely simulated one whereas AR alters the user’s real-world environment by overlaying additional information or data. Both of these technologies are being used for personnel training, commonly in the form of a head-mounted device; for example, an AR or VR device allows an Operations trainee, equipped with plant data and procedures, to experience an issue that may occur on the plant floor. The trainee responds as he or she deems appropriate, then a local or remote expert can review the AR or VR video and provide feedback or suggest additional training as necessary. Historically, training programs have been one-size-fits-all but these types of technologies allow training to be more customized based on the skills a specific trainee needs to enhance. These tools also enable personnel to train in a safe, non-disruptive environment, often training on rare operations scenarios like process upsets or unplanned downtimes that may be difficult to experience in the “real-world”.

Smart Robot Usage Expands: 5G network technology is upon us and is delivering faster and more reliable internet connectivity. Additionally, due to improved satellite coverage, connectivity is now spreading to remote areas not previously connected. These advancements make the case even stronger for smart robots! Robots are certainly not new but robotic technologies continue to advance and the possible applications for Industry 4.0 robots continues to rapidly expand.

Increased Reshoring: with the digitalization of manufacturing and increasing industrial automation, workforces are becoming less reliant on humans and fewer personnel are required. Reshoring is the concept of bringing manufacturing back to the United States. There are many factors that influence the trend in reshoring, but digitalized manufacturing is certainly playing a part.
 

Concept Systems

Concept Systems is 100% committed to maintaining current, state-of-the art equipment that allow customers to achieve competitive manufacturing today and tomorrow. With the technologies available, there are countless robotic and machine vision applications that can help you address your business challenges. From basic picking and sorting to enhanced vision inspection, from custom built end of arm tooling to complete work cell design and integration, our team of expert engineers design and integrate solutions that enhance the efficiency and profitability of your operations.

We’ll dive into your manufacturing process and build a smart, precisely tailored automation solution – effectively integrating metrology and automation solutions to improve throughput and elevate quality. Leverage the advances in technology to improve your manufacturing – contact us today!

The internet of services in Industrie 4.0

Manufacturers need to think through their business model with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industrie 4.0 and ask how can a product become a service with a long-term revenue stream.

Author: Mike James

There is much talk about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). However, ‘things’ are just part of the plumbing. We connect devices, giving them, no more than, nominal intelligence. The real innovation is the internet of services. Manufacturers need to think through their business model and ask how can a product become a service with a long-term revenue stream. Many manufacturers, however, recognize this and are exploiting the opportunity to improve their operations. For example,

Tesla is delivering vehicles with hardware and software which can be upgraded, their cars are sensor ready and software upgrades will provide extra intelligence, delivered via the internet. The customer could pay for the upgrades which then generates extra revenue for Tesla.

Otis is supplying elevators/lifts with sensors which send data into their cloud. The data is analyzed and Otis sells a predictive maintenance services package, again adding a long-term revenue stream.

Additionally, a catering company in The Netherlands is supplying custom meals to hospitals. Each meal is prepared for the patient based upon data received from the hospital about the patient’s needs. The meals are prepared in an automated plant.

The individualization of mass production and the internet of services add additional revenue. The smart manufacturing plant needs to be flexible and deliver intelligent products. A major misunderstanding is that this is not a cost saving exercise; it’s a new business model to increase revenue and profitability.

It’s important to map out opportunities and match them against the realities of today’s technology. A manufacturer who was heavily investing in a factory of the future did not build this type of strategy. Enthusiastic engineers ordered additive manufacturing (3-D printing machines only to learn they could not connect them to their network using international standards. They paid a heavy price for this error and damaged the initiative’s reputation. It’s worth taking independent advice before completing a company’s manufacturing strategy.

The best way to avoid these mistakes and build a successful strategy is to learn from other manufacturers in a safe space. MESA is a safe harbor to share best practices and lessons learned so that the industry can collectively rise to Industrie 4.0.

Mike James is chairman for MESA International Board of Directors. This article originally appeared on MESA International’s blog. MESA International is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

 

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