Technology has always driven the different manufacturing processes in most industries. To stay competitive, manufacturers must use the latest technological advances. In the last decades, automation has been the major trend in manufacturing. Much advancement in industrial automation has been possible thanks to linear actuators. These devices provide a controllable linear drive, which allows automating many manufacturing tasks.
However, what are the current trends in manufacturing automation? If you were planning to modernize your manufacturing plant, what technologies should you pay attention to? Some technologies that we can mention immediately are:
- Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs);
- Internet of things (IoT);
- Artificial intelligence (AI);
- Predictive maintenance;
- Collaborative robots (Cobots);
- Industry 4.0.
This list includes some of the top trends in manufacturing. But it can be extended. Modern technology is available to more manufacturers than ever before. Automation and robotic solutions are easy to use. Likewise, automation of manufacturing process management (MPM) is possible through smart algorithms. So, let’s review some of these technological trends. By knowing them, you can decide which ones you can include in your manufacturing plant.
Autonomous Mobile Robots
The use of robotics in manufacturing has almost doubled in the last couple of years. The use of robots was almost exclusive of the automotive industry. Things are changing now. Other types of industries are using robots in the processes. In the past, a robot used to be regarded as extremely advanced technology. Only highly-specialized people were able to operate them. Again, this conception is changing.
AMRs aim to make robotics available to everyone. These robots can navigate autonomously. You can set them up to perform specific tasks. What’s more, the programming of the tasks doesn’t require special skills. Hence, practically any company can deploy robots in their manufacturing premises.
Internet of Things
The world is interconnected nowadays. The Internet has made it possible. But just as people are connected through the Internet, so are things. The IoT paradigm allows for the interconnection of machines, electronic devices, and more. These “things” can interchange useful information to automate a manufacturing process.
Likewise, manufacturers can collect more easily valuable information. They can use it to improve and optimize the operation of every component. To realize the IoT paradigm, Internet technology is combined with the use of sensors. The IoT leads to more safety for workers, less operating costs, and higher reliability.
Another “front” in manufacturing automation is the management of data. Today, companies handle very large amounts of data. As mentioned before, sensors and the IoT provide a lot of data from machines and other components. How to handle these data? How to get the most out of this information? Artificial intelligence has the solution.
AI algorithms can recognize patterns and trends in large amounts of information. Once a pattern is found, the algorithm can infer conclusions. These algorithms allow manufacturers to make better decisions about the manufacturing process. AI has many applications. It is not only about the production line. AI algorithms help to make better decisions about inventory, warehousing, supplies, transportation, and more.
The combination of IoT, sensors, and AI enables predictive maintenance. Predictive maintenance helps to save time and economic resources. Through the use of sensors, monitoring units collect data about performance. AI algorithms analyze the data and infer possible failures. Thus, operators get a warning about an impending failure. In this way, maintenance is performed before a major problem arises.
Factory workers have always mistrusted machines. The introduction of robots and automation created concerns. It was thought that robots may take jobs from workers. It hasn´t happened. It won’t happen either. Instead, robots and workers are collaborating to make different manufacturing tasks more efficiently. Cobots also make dangerous operations to ensure the safety of workers. Cobots complement the human workforce.
This term defines the so-called fourth industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 encompasses the above technologies and several others. The use of these technologies will ultimately create the so-called smart factories. Analysts predict that the only way to remain competitive is to embrace Industry 4.0. This means adopting the different technologies mentioned above: IoT, AI, sensors, cobots, and more. At the same time, human workers must get the train to work in a more technological environment.