The manufacturing sector has been desperately trying to recover from disruptions in the supply chain caused by the pandemic. As a result of the lockdown, many plants and manufacturing facilities were forced to turn to digital technology and automation for solutions. Out-dated plants and manufacturing facilities need to continue to take advantage of innovative technology to enhance safety conditions, boost performance across the assembly plant, and remain competitive in a difficult environment.
In this article, we outline some of the industrial automation trends for 2021 that could be life-changing for your company.
1). Merging of Digital and Operational Technology
Software processes large sets of data faster and more accurately than humans can.
In the last ten years, developers have been improving how digital technologies complement operational tasks. Technologies such as IoT are enabling simulation and virtual testing of machinery on the industrial floor. In the future, plants and manufacturing facilities will first build presentations of products before producing them physically. Similarly, digital data received from equipment will be valuable for monitoring and maintenance.
Control system integration in the workplace ensures maximum value to the user by providing a reliable system for automatic task management and scheduling. Having cybertechnology in place can also improve cybersecurity to protect your industrial plant. By integrating cybersecurity, plants and manufacturing facilities can eliminate risks within the network. The convergence of systems also ensures the same high-quality level of security across the industry.
2). AI Predicts and Adapts to Change
One goal of AI is to develop business resilience in rapidly changing times. While traditional robots can perform routine tasks efficiently, typically, they can’t adjust as fast as AI systems.
In the future, robots may learn patterns through reinforcement learning. AI provides algorithms for finding the best path to a goal in a complex environment. That means robots will make their own decisions in emergencies to avoid downtime – as well as panic.
One shortcoming of using AI is that robots need massive computing power and data. However, in recent years, many plants and manufacturing facilities have been working to put together a knowledge base to increase access to improving technology. It is only a matter of time before many workforces have robots that can make adjustments to operations without human input.
3). Virtual Technology Mitigates Risk and Improves Implementation
Virtual technologies facilitate the transfer of data allowing operators and users to fully immerse themselves into the project and get a real feel for the final product. The ability to demonstrate layouts and routing to stakeholders before manufacturing will ensure users get what they want from the final product, reducing rework and conflicts.
An augmented reality application can display relevant data to better understand layouts and provide feedback for what would improve their efficiency before anything is built. Engineers and drafters are able to review equipment setting and pipe or duct routing to reduce interference, increasing the buildability of the design and reducing field change orders and issues. Mistakes in planning that would not have been apparent before the work was completed can now become identified much earlier.
Plants and manufacturing facilities also benefit from capturing data that could prove valuable in the future – something that is easily processed by software applications. Incorporating AR into existing sites eventually would allow for easier routing of new equipment and lines and a much quicker demonstration to the client about what a finished project means to their facility. Virtual technology, therefore, further enables improvement to an industry’s long-term success.
4). Interconnected Robotic Networks
Another way plants and manufacturing facilities are optimizing operations is through groups of interconnected robots. There are many industrial plants today utilizing automated robotics to speed up production.
AMRs (Automated Mobile Robots) employ technology reminiscent of the automobile plant of the 20th century – though these robots have more advanced navigation capabilities than their predecessors. They are also more versatile than traditional bots, owing to their interconnectivity and smart features.
One benefit of AMRs is that they have driverless transport systems. Therefore, you can redirect machines on the assembly line to different workstations. When there is a change in design, only changes in programming are necessary. There is no need to dismantle the driverless system.
5). Humans Working with AI Robots
Robots are performing increasingly sophisticated tasks that, previously, only humans could do. For example, a robot can carry packages and deliver them to the recipient’s door.
Additionally, innovations in communication are facilitating the integration of robotics into industrial processes. Since robots can do a wide range of tasks, plants and manufacturing facilities are starting to use them alongside humans.
Instead of replacing employees, cobots (or “collaborative robots”) will assist with work on the industrial floor. Personnel on the industrial floor can request a robot to deliver parts from the warehouse. That way, cobots can handle the strenuous work and leave complex decision-making to humans.
Collaborative robots are relatively easy to program, and plants can deploy them without extensive autonomous networks. Cobots have demonstrated their potential to improve safety for employees and boost productivity for the organization.
In 2021, human and machine collaboration could be a game-changer for SMEs. Collaborative robots will provide a competitive advantage at a fair price for smaller plants and manufacturing facilities.
6). Improving Staff Training and Knowledge Base
In the next few years, we can expect further integration between machine learning and human intelligence. The current challenge facing manufacturing plants is how to aid communication between employees and robots.
Already, industries are using AI to deliver information to personnel in real-time. For example, a maintenance technician can get data on replacement part waiting times while working on a machine. Accessibility to information improves safety, product quality and encourages employee engagement.
Nevertheless, there are still challenges in human-robot communications. AI machines often need training alongside team members to foster understanding.
It’s important that plants and manufacturing facilities only invest in technologies tailored for their industrial needs.
Bottom-Line for Automation
The latest trends in industrial automation highlight the rapid adoption of robotics and AI applications by more and more companies every year. Plants and manufacturing facilities are working to recover from the impacts of the lockdown, and digital technologies are the perfect solution to getting back on track.
The future still looks bright for industrial plants.
Robots and AI are becoming more reliable with advanced features, changing the way employees work and providing a new competitive edge to the manufacturing industry.
If you’ve been searching for solutions to:
A). Time management
B). Automated scheduling and processing
C). A more efficient workplace
Get in contact with us today.