Wouldn’t it be great if we could see what’s the next big manufacturing innovation in the industry? 

Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball to do so. Nor an app or webpage we can pull up on our industrial tablet. However, we look at some of the manufacturing trends from 2021. And from there, take a leap of faith where innovations in manufacturing are going in 2023 and beyond.

Meaning of Manufacturing Innovations 

Innovation offers many vital advantages to businesses. In manufacturing, innovation is commonly known as Manufacturing Process Innovation or MPI. It can affect:   

  • Management or running the company and its personnel with new styles
  • Processes or modifying how production can cut costs, etc., with new methods 
  • Sourcing or adopting the supply chain with new suppliers or raw materials
  • Technology, or changing the manufacturing process with new machines

Companies can move to be forwarded by MPI in several ways:  

  • Address environmental concerns and sustainability issues
  • Enable new applications and products
  • Enhance quality
  • Faster turnaround times
  • More significant potential for a broader range of product 
  • More excellent responsiveness to customer demands
  • Improve product design and quality
  • Improve efficiency and productivity
  • Increase competitiveness
  • Reduce downtime and waste levels 
  • Streamline relationships with customers and suppliers

The five technologies following have the capacity to bring MPI to the industry and fulfill all the above bullet points and more. 

Automating Innovation in Manufacturing through Robotics

Factory automation is used in a variety of ways:

  • Automate repetitive processes
  • Handle processes requiring a high degree of precision
  • Reduce the potential for human error
  • Reducing the need for labor and materials

One form of this manufacturing innovation is the use of robots. These machines can be programmed to perform repetitive tasks quickly and accurately. 

Industrial robots are a popular form. Also known as collaborative robots or cobots, these automated machines are designed to work alongside people safely and securely. They can perform assembly, inspection, and transportation tasks. By taking over the more physically demanding or hazardous ones, cobots can reduce the strain on human workers. This frees them to focus on more complex tasks, especially those requiring critical thinking.

Forecasting Innovation Through Predictive Analytics 

As the name implies, predictive analytics uses data analytics and machine learning algorithms to predict future trends and events. These can be something as simple as the malfunction of a piece of machinery within 24-hours to complex and far-reaching calculations such as the company’s cash flow in the coming decade.

Many manufacturing companies are keen on the predictive maintenance aspect of predictive analytics. Companies use programs like Prognostics and Health Management (PHM) to forecast maintenance needs and equipment failures before they happen. 

As an example, low-cost sensors are used to constantly provide real-time feedback on how machinery is doing. Companies then analyze the info to enact proactive maintenance measures to keep their systems running safely and efficiently. 

The benefits can be enormous. There is less need for reactive maintenance and associated costs. Also, there’s no downtime for repairs, which can significantly impact a company’s bottom line. 

How Additive Printing Builds Innovations In Manufacturing

More commonly known as 3D printing additive manufacturing creates a physical object by building it layer by layer. The object is usually from a digital model. 

The innovations that manufacturing additive printing bring are numerous. Examples: 

  • Fabricate objects from various materials, such as plastics, metals, and composites
  • Creation of high-precision customized and complex parts
  • Enable the rapid prototyping of new designs, speeding up development and innovation
  • Reduce the need for expensive tooling and production setup
  • Simplify repair in manufacturing by printing objects as needed
  • Build manufactured housing can be at a fraction of the cost of traditionally built one

Current additive manufacturing techniques, at the time of this writing, do not support traditional mass production. Several manufacturers, though, are tackling the 3D printing and mass production issue. Many are blending traditional and additive manufacturing while others use it to replace more costly methods entirely (e.g., mold creation). 

Insight in Manufacturing through Artificial Intelligence 

Modern manufacturing companies receive a multitude of data from their equipment and machinery. This data is sent to industrial computers. Some uses include: 

  • Asset management 
  • Maintenance scheduling
  • Production optimization

Unfortunately, using traditional manual processing to properly analyze massive amounts of data is time-consuming. Standard computer software cannot sense trends from the information nor provide insight reached by logical calculations. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing has emerged as one of the top MPI to resolve this problem. AI-driven algorithms are being done to sort, organize, and give a proper analysis of this data. Valuable insights can be quickly generated as a result.  

Predictive maintenance, which was covered earlier, already applies to AI thanks to machine learning algorithms. Besides the three uses for manufacturing data previously mentioned, companies can expand that capability into other aspects of manufacturing operations including:

  • Inventory management 
  • Quality management 
  • Supply chain visibility 
  • Warehousing cost reduction 

Going Green as an Innovation

Sustainability by manufacturers like the auto industry looks to reduce the environmental impact of their various manufacturing processes. Many are turning to smart technologies and other MPI to minimize waste as well as resource depletion. 

The adoption of circular economy principles in manufacturing is one such method. Here, renewable resources keep waste to a minimum. Same with the reuse and recycling of materials. Companies garner added benefits like cost savings due to reduced need for raw materials and resources and an improved reputation by environmentally-conscious consumers. 

Closing Thoughts

Manufacturing innovations look to bring new processes, methods, and technologies to companies’ manufacturing practices. With technology, these can range from the increased use of automation, like robotics, to artificial intelligence. All innovations, regardless, aim to achieve a variety of goals like greater profitability or customer satisfaction.  

Is your company looking to see how computers can innovate its manufacturing lineup? Contact an expert at Cybernet to see how this can be done with our industrial computers and tablets.