How Technology Is Impacting Manufacturing
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the U.S. manufacturing industry could be worth up to $530 billion by 2025. This growth is fueled in part by an increase in advanced technology that continues to bolster manufacturing efficiency. Manufacturing technology can help build a diverse range of products, from communication devices to medical machinery and more. In the years to come, technology can help manufacturing grow beyond past boundaries.
What Is the Impact of Technology on Manufacturing?
The impact of technology on manufacturing is substantial. Emerging technologies like computer numerical control (CNC) and additive manufacturing are changing the playing field for the better. These technologies generate manufacturing jobs, and they can be highly cost-effective for small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs). Two advancements that are shaping the manufacturing landscape include robot aides and workforce expansion.
Robots have been at the center of manufacturing technology for many years. Product research and development teams have a special interest in robots, as speeding up development is a big priority for most manufacturers. The momentum and accuracy that robots provide is useful in working toward achieving this goal. Robotic advancements are helpful in the following areas:
- Materials engineering: Materials engineering refers to the dexterity required in extremely precise particle placement. Robots can handle and improve a task like this with ease.
- Collaborative robots: Collaborative robots, or “cobots,” are robots designed to function alongside humans in the workplace. These cobots may be robotic arms or customized machines specialized in tackling odd jobs. Cobot sales are predicted to reach $34 billion in 2026.
- Additive manufacturing: Additive manufacturing is the use of 3D printing to create a product layer by layer. This type of manufacturing aids production and decreases energy costs. Many factories already use computer-aided design (CAD), and in a sense, additive manufacturing is one step further in the design process.
- Robotic welding: Like cobots, robotic welding technology uses robots to enrich the production process for humans. Welding automation can boost productivity in the factory and cut the cost of labor and production breaks. Because of its precision, robotic welding produces less waste and can increase project turnaround speed by three or four times.
Technology and manufacturing would be futile together if not for the human element. New manufacturing technology has ushered in a need for skilled laborers. According to the NIST, this need is immense — with an estimated 2.4 million open positions that have to be filled in the next 10 years. These openings will welcome many people into the manufacturing industry, fuel their career growth and further supplement manufacturing technology development.
Examples of some of these positions include:
- Industrial augmented reality positions: Those who prefer computer-oriented fields may find interest in industrial augmented reality. Industrial augmented reality is a system that enables workers to perform niche labor on the work floor with virtual glasses and digital layouts. Augmented reality can also be used remotely.
- Manufacturing engineer positions: Manufacturing engineers are in high demand as well. Alternatively dubbed plant or process engineers, their primary role is to create cost-benefit analyses, resolve problems with production and work directly with CAD software to build products.
What Is the Future of Manufacturing Technology?
Automation, digitization and human ability have all fueled what some call the fourth industrial revolution. This label brings awareness to how technology and manufacturing work together in the modern age. Assembly lines, while still utilitarian, depend more and more on breakthrough technology systems that have manipulated the shape of the manufacturing process. Two such breakthroughs include artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.
Now and in the future, you can expect AI to be a crucial asset among manufacturing technology. In 2016, the AI market was priced at $8 billion. By 2021, that value could multiply approximately nine times to reach $72 billion. AI has many applications, but two areas you may see it in manufacturing include:
- Lights-out factories: A lights-out factory is comprised entirely of robots building other robots to do demanding physical work. Japan has operated lights-out factories for almost two decades, starting in 2001. Without self-regulated robots, a 40,000-square-foot warehouse would need to employ at least 500 workers. One Chinese lights-out factory picks, packs and transfers packages with just twenty industrial robots.
- Quality assurance measures: Another benefit of artificial intelligence is its capabilities for new means of quality assurance. Computer vision is a technique of using machine learning to identify boxes and scan for defects that are invisible to the human eye. Many industrial factories are implementing this software in different ways to spot imperfections.
Blockchain is a method of record-keeping made up of digital pieces of information and designated blocks. In 2016 the blockchain market was valued at $200 million, and it is projected to evolve to $2.3 billion by 2021. Blockchain’s popularity has been associated mostly with cryptocurrency, but its uses are pervasive.
Blockchain’s aptness for tracking transactions has made it instrumental in product recall. In recent years, many major companies have equipped blockchain to track shipments. One company was even able to reduce their tracking time from 7 days to 2.2 seconds. Factories have the option to deploy this same technology in the future to ensure satisfactory delivery procedures and enforce safety precautions.
Capitalize on Manufacturing Technology With Summit Steel
At Summit Steel, we utilize technology to meet your needs. Our robotic arc welding, spot welding and MIG welding are quality-insured, and all our welders are AWS-certified. We use CAD in addition to our tooling capacities to extend the best services in welding, laser cutting, saw cutting and more. In addition, our machines utilize CNC for high-quality precision and optimal performance. As an ISO-9001 certified company, our quality management systems consistently meet regulations and satisfy customers.
We have a wide range of welding and metal fabrication services available for your use. Consider us your one-stop-shop for all your metal contract manufacturing needs. For more information on how Summit Steel can assist your business, contact us today.