Close the digital transformation gap in manufacturing

According to Statista research, global spending on digital transformation strategies is estimated at $3.4 trillion by 2026. Historically, manufacturing has been slow to capitalize on such trends, but that is changing quickly.

Additional research from Mordor Intelligence projects a CAGR of 19.4% in digital technology spending from 2022-2027. One of the highlights is that spending on collaborative robots is likely to reach $12.3 billion by 2025 with 3D printing and IoT technologies. Internet of Things) is watching closely.

These are just two examples of the technologies that manufacturing is deploying to close its gap in large-scale digital transformation.

Next generation connectivity and remote control

The Manufacturing Institute is another group that studies the positive impact of digital transformation on manufacturers of all sizes. A recent industry survey highlights that 91% of decision makers believe 5G is an integral part of their company’s future.

Why is next-generation connectivity essential to closing the digital transformation gap in manufacturing? Here are just three reasons industry leaders cited in the Manufacturing Institute survey:

  • Speed ​​and competitivenessNine out of 10 manufacturing industry representatives surveyed expect higher 5G speeds to improve their group’s competitiveness in the global economy.
  • Remote accessThe COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many manufacturers to invest in remote access and remote troubleshooting technologies. 5G makes it fast and easy to control cyber-physical systems with fewer or no humans involved.
  • New business opportunitiesSome 86% of leaders believe that adopting 5G will enable their organization to create new business ventures and new services and bring about new and improved industrial processes.

An electrical transformer manufacturer in Mexico successfully implemented a seamless process to perform factory acceptance tests remotely. In another example, John Deere is testing private 5G spectrum for its assembly plants. The goal is to create a blazing-fast network of sensors, connected cars and enterprise planning software, and a consistent, efficient pipeline of data and materials across the company.

Artificial intelligence and social listening

The manufacturing sector is under pressure from supply chain disruptions, labor disputes, climate change and other factors. Any place where it can intelligently apply technology to reduce friction and time to market is a worthy place for strategic investment.

A cosmetics company called Lubrizol has shown that combining artificial intelligence and “social listening” on social media sites leads to faster product development and more satisfied customers. The business used an artificial intelligence model that helped them find social media posts for the common denominator of what customers wanted from their products. AI then helped the company develop actionable formulations based on those observations, such as prioritizing “long-lasting” and “hydrating” formulas.

A failed product launch is a huge waste of effort, time and materials in production. Finding technology that makes it easy to give people what they want in an attractive format can save many of those otherwise wasted resources.

Machine Vision and Reverse Logistics

Reverse logistics continues to be one of the biggest challenges and sources of waste in the manufacturing, distribution and logistics industries. Fortunately, digital transformation technologies make product returns less likely and faster when necessary.

Machine vision is one such technology. This technology combines lighting, multiple cameras or sensors, and deep learning models to provide a detailed, automated process for inspecting products for defects and overall quality and scalability.

The researchers noted that deep learning models can take time to train effectively, but once they do, they provide impressive accuracy in detecting defects that surpasses the naked eye. The wider adoption of machine vision inspection should result in far fewer defective products making their way to end users. It is even an ally in the ongoing effort to find and eliminate counterfeit products from the supply chain.

To make the most of your digital transformation, create an internal talent development program to keep your momentum going. There is an intense race among manufacturers to attract the best technical talent ahead of the competition. Make sure your organization has the resources to upskill, train, retrain and generally invest in your employees to keep their skills relevant.

3D printing, mass customization and rapid prototyping

3D printing helps manufacturers solve the reverse logistics problem in different ways. The first is through rapid prototyping and faster product iterations before reaching the market. Newer printers can be up to 100 times faster than previous generation models. Combined with social listening and surveys, manufacturers can give customers exactly what they want the first time, and faster, compared to longer turnaround times for products that aren’t guaranteed to satisfy.

Manufacturers have been working for years to explore 3D printing’s ability to support mass customization as well. The idea seems like a contradiction, but additive manufacturing makes it much simpler than it has ever been. Compared to the long turnaround required to rework a conventional production line to make a different product, it is easy to enter another program into the 3D printer and change the printer filament. Research points to profitable returns for manufacturers adopting a hybrid approach that includes both conventional and additive manufacturing techniques.

How to make the most of digital transformation

There’s a temptation not to “fix” something that isn’t “broken,” but you may not know what works effectively until you ask. Convene a team of leaders from each department to identify areas of growth and drive sound technology budget decisions.

Digital transformation is advancing rapidly in every industry, including industries previously known to be slow to change. This is your chance to level up, so what are you going to do with it?

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