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The manufacturing world is an ever-evolving space, with new technology and best practices coming into play constantly. The term “trend” doesn’t fit these changes, as that would imply they grow and then fade in popularity and use. Think instead of changes in manufacturing as “shifts,” which guide the industry in how to operate and produce more effectively and efficiently. We are currently experiencing Industry 4.0 – a time of great technological change and innovation. With that are some shifts in the way manufacturers produce and distribute their products

1. Automation and the Potential for “Dark Factories”

It seems impossible that a manufacturing facility could operate completely in the dark. And, while the term “dark factory” doesn’t refer to factory workers producing without lights, it does reference a production facility running entirely without human interaction. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) within the manufacturing space isn’t a new concept. However, the growing reliance on AI for carrying out tasks within the production process is bringing manufacturers closer to operating factories with fewer and fewer employees required.

This is especially true as automation capabilities continue to advance in manufacturing. Automated processes mean greater accuracy among tasks. With fewer “mistakes” in the production process and less scrap and rework – production costs decrease as well. Automation plus AI makes it possible for dark factories to be a very real phenomenon to look out for in the near future.

2. The Use of AI and Predictive Maintenance

Artificial intelligence is also now giving manufacturers a way to accurately predict maintenance issues and needs so they can develop and implement a preventive maintenance plan that best works for the equipment within their facility. Software applications like FactoryAI rely on AI algorithms and combine that functionality with historical data to proactively (and very accurately) predict potential machine failures, malfunctions, and breakdowns. Doing so allows organizations to avoid many of the costly repercussions of unexpected failures, including downtime associated with implementing a fic.

Unplanned downtime carries with it many consequences, including negative impacts on revenue and customer satisfaction. These unplanned periods where machines can’t operate negatively impact production schedules – often reducing production capabilities and units sold. Also, it can lead to significant delays in production, meaning anxious customers waiting on products and likely a negatively-impacted customer experience.

3. Even More Growth of the Internet of Things

Manufacturers have realized the need for and importance of collecting accurate, real-time data from a variety of sources – so they can make data-driven decisions regarding the production process. That data is no longer coming solely from machines on the shop floor. The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the use of an entire network of sensors, machines, and triggers that simultaneously collect and exchange data throughout the network. 

The insight gained by having access to such a robust amount of data means manufacturers (and the decision makers within them) have a 360 view of operations and the production process. They can then make proactive decisions on how to optimize each function while also reducing downtime and creating more efficiencies within the organization.

4. The Use of Augmented and Virtual Reality

More households than ever are enjoying innovations in virtual reality(VR) from their living rooms. But, does VR or augmented reality (AR) have a place in the manufacturing world? While the use of these technologies in manufacturing is a newer concept, it is certainly one that is growing in prevalence among industry leaders.

An area in which AR greatly benefits organizations is maintenance. Securing a human to fix even a minor machine issue often takes time. AR technology makes it possible for solution implementation to happen without relying on human labor to accomplish it. 

Often, AR is also used for quality control (QC). Throughout the production process, quality checks are needed to ensure the end product meets quality standards. AR technology can help manufacturers cut down on production errors, ultimately reducing negative occurrences like scrap and rework.

Virtual reality can also be impactful when it comes to training machine operators. Rather than relying on information absorbed via written or spoken instructions, VR allows employees to get an interactive experience so they are properly prepared for what their role entails and feel more comfortable when stepping in front of a working machine for the first time.

IMCO Software – Leaders in Manufacturing Software Solutions

Technology within the manufacturing space, especially when it comes to software solutions – is constantly evolving. Innovation happens quickly and it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with best practices now while also looking for innovative ways to improve efficiency and productivity.  

The team at IMCO Software knows and understands this. We pride ourselves on consistently remaining ahead of the pack when it comes to emerging technologies and better ways to operate using technology within the manufacturing world. With decades of experience in both manufacturing and supply chain management, the IMCO team can curate the right combination of technology solutions to give manufacturers greater visibility over operations, provide them with accurate and real-time data about all production functions, and offer them greater control over those functions and the production process as a whole. To learn more about what to expect in manufacturing in 2023 or to schedule a free consultation and demo of our software offerings, contact the team at IMCO Software today!