The PwC Industrial Manufacturing Trends 2016 post has been released. Check it out. There are some interesting ideas.

The authors Stephen Pillsbury and Robert Bono cite the painful lessons of recovering from 2001 and 2008 as leading to caution now displayed by manufacturing leaders. We’ve had a bit of an economic jolt. Where is it headed? The uncertainty leads to caution.

They reach an interesting conclusion, “Manufacturing may be facing some headwinds, but it’s undeniably in the midst of a technological renaissance that is transforming the look, systems, and processes of the modern factory. Despite the risks — and despite recent history — industrial manufacturing companies cannot afford to ignore these advances. By embracing them now, they can improve productivity in their own plants, compete against rivals, and maintain an edge with customers who are seeking their own gains from innovation.”

It is time, they say, to envision and prepare for a data-driven factory of the future.

They reveal four technology categories that are already driving much of the change. I’ll summarize. Check out the report for more depth. Most of these are not surprising, but they certainly must be factored in the thinking of manufacturing leaders.

Industrial Manufacturing Technologies

  • Internet of Things (IoT): The connected factory is an idea that has been evolving for the past few years. Increasingly, it means expanding the power of the Web to link machines, sensors, computers, and humans in order to enable new levels of information monitoring, collection, processing, and analysis.

    But for industrial manufacturing companies, the next generation of IoT technology should go well beyond real-time monitoring to connected information platforms that leverage data and advanced analytics to deliver higher-quality, more durable, and more reliable products.

    Before investing in IoT, however, industrial manufacturing companies must determine precisely what data is most valuable to collect, as well as gauge the efficacy of the analytical structures that will be used to assess the data. In addition, next-generation equipment will require a next-generation mix of workers, which should include employees who can design and build IoT products as well as data scientists who can analyze output.

  • Robotics: In many cases, robots are employed to complement rather than replace workers. This concept, known as “cobotics,” teams operators and machines in order to make complex parts of the assembly process faster, easier, and safer.Cobotics is rapidly gaining momentum, and successful implementations to date have focused largely on specific ergonomically challenging tasks within the aerospace and automotive industries. But these applications will expand as automation developers introduce more sophisticated sensors and more adaptable, highly functional robotic equipment that will let humans and machines interact deftly on the factory floor.
  • Augmented reality: Recent advances in computer vision, computer science, information technology, and engineering have enabled manufacturers to deliver real-time information and guidance at the point of use.
  • 3D printing: Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing technology produces solid objects from digital designs by building up multiple layers of plastic, resin, or other materials in a precisely determined shape.

The authors conclude with recommendations of how to consider necessary investments in these emerging technologies.

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