Three emerging tech advancements and the opportunity for manufacturers

Three emerging tech advancements and the opportunity for manufacturers

Mobile has created a wave of disruption across many industries. Uber has redefined the way we get from point A to point B, we no longer have to visit a branch when we need to deposit a check, and now with the introduction of Apple Pay we may be entering the long awaited disruption in the payments space.

Manufacturing is not immune to this movement. Great investments are being made in the area of Digital Manufacturing and many emerging technologies are making their way into manufacturers’ operations. There are 3 major advancements in technology that I see shaping the future of manufacturing …

1. 3D Printing

The maker movement is in full swing, and the technology that brought us here has progressed rapidly over the past few years. The global 3D printing industry is expected to grow from $3.07 billion in 2013 to more than $21 billion by 2020 making the possibilities for an open market of sharing CAD files, contributing to a open source community and printing things for your everyday use are endless. This trend along with increased pressure to meet consumer demands is putting pressure on manufacturers to examine how it will affect their operation.

Repair Parts. Manufacturers will have the ability to print repair parts for machinery immediately when it breaks down or even before it breaks, therefore reducing downtime and repair expenses. AirBus for example was able to drop costs and supply lead time on tooling by 70% by printing brackets needed for the A350 XWB. Most recently NASA and SpaceX sent a 3D printer to the International Space station to begin printing a series of test parts and tools at the end of this year.

Prototyping. Not only will companies see the benefits by printing repair parts, but by also being able to easily and rapidly prototype ideas and test their hypotheses about a new product. In Beijing they are printing a 3D model of their flowerbed display for their annual National Day in order to get the design right and reduce time for setup and rework. In the medical field companies are experimenting with printing inner ear parts to help improve the hearing conditions for the millions of people with Otosclerosis.

2. Big Data and Predictive Analytics

Manufacturers have been collecting all sorts of data for years and over the past few years have been increasing the amount of data that they collect. From shop floor data to sales data the opportunity is endless for what can be collected and analyzed. However a recent study found that while 90% of manufacturers collect data from production processes, less than half have predictive analytics in place and less than 40% are using this data to find solutions for product problems.

Tackling Big Data and predictive analytics can be a daunting task for anyone, especially for manufacturers where endless amounts of data can be made available. In order for manufacturers to take full advantage, they should concentrate on first collecting the correct data and second identifying the opportunity to improve their processes and eliminate problems by analyzing this data. Once this data is collected and analyzed manufacturers can start to solve problems, increase efficiency and look for new ways to create visualizations and experiences

3. The Mashup of the Physical and Digital World (The Internet of Everything)

Advancements in mobile technology have opened doors for advancements in how the physical world is becoming more and more integrated into our digital world. The Internet of Things market is poised for record growth and in turn, record opportunity for the enterprise and specifically manufacturers. The cost to make “dumb things” smart is becoming more affordable, and therefore allowing for the ability to make real-time decisions based on information being fed back into human hands through mobile devices.

While many manufacturers have had connected operations for years, only 10% are taking full advantage of fully connecting their operations. By connecting to the internet and a fully integrated system, manufacturers can take advantage of a holistic view of the global operation and the ability to monitor and adjust operations in real-time from anywhere at any time. As the number of sensors in a factory continues to grow, the ability to collect and act on the data generated from these sensors will prove to be the greatest opportunity for manufacturers to add value to their operation.

These three advancements in technology, as well as existing smartphone and tablet technology, have generated an opportunity to improve manufacturers’ operational efficiency, safety training and monitoring and increase employee enablement through communication and collaboration. Continue to follow our company blog over the next several weeks to gain deeper insights into these areas and many more.

Lewis is a Principal at Solstice and specializes in Mobile Product Management, Strategy and the execution of your product roadmap. He is passionate about working with clients to identify user needs and take innovative ideas from ideation and turn them into effective features in their mobile products. A die hard Cubs fan, he enjoys listening to music, golfing, playing guitar and meeting new people.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WTN Media LLC. WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.