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Top digital trends in manufacturing

Manufacturing tech trends

Technology is transforming operations for manufacturing businesses at a breathtaking pace, helping them establish cost savings, faster production times and the ability to provide always-on, real time customer support.

Manufacturers which embrace digital change will reap the rewards, including better visibility of operations across their business, smarter and more efficient working, fewer growing pains and, potentially, the edge on their competitors.

Here are some of the top digital trends that are reinventing the manufacturing sector:

Hybrid computing   

Machines, products and employees can communicate with each other and record their interactions more quickly and seamlessly than ever before. This results in a new problem to overcome – how to handle an ever-increasing volume of data needs that to be routed and stored, to a shared space that is easily accessible.

The solution? A hybrid cloud. The hybrid cloud makes use of a company owned cloud server (private cloud) and shared server, such as Microsoft Azure (public cloud), that data can move between.

For example, a parts manufacturer may use a private cloud to collect and analyse data, but also needs to enable customers on the public cloud to see order-status updates derived from that information. Both have access to the same data, but in different ways.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Machine learning, an application of artificial intelligence, provides the ability for systems to perform tasks without being told exactly what to do – they develop their own solutions, learning from experience. Machine learning automation will be useful in areas of manufacturing such as inventory management and asset management, where networks can course-correct and improve intelligence over time.

What’s more impressive is its ability to detect malicious activity and prevent cyber-attacks by picking up anomalies – reducing the time lost to interruptions to operations.

Artificial Intelligence is already trending in manufacturing. The use of AI algorithms improves production efficiency, product quality and safety performance. AI can leverage customer and product data to better match supply and demand.

A key example in manufacturing is using AI systems to help prevent machine failure – this is called predictive maintenance. The goal is to minimize disruption and inconvenience, prevent issues and resolve problems quickly.

5G

5G technology may have just rolled out in the UK – but expect it to soon play a central role across the manufacturing industry. In June 2019, the UK government announced it is to invest £40m in 5G trial projects for the UK manufacturing industry with the aim of increasing productivity and output.

If successful, 5G will have the ability to enable a whole host of devices and machines to communicate in the field, increasing flexibility and productivity in the long run. Operations will be able to continue 24/7, and with the low latency of 5G – around 10 milliseconds – decisions can be made instantaneously, and devices can be monitored in real time.

Smart Cybersecurity

DevSecOps (development security operations) is a buzzword that many of those working in the manufacturing sector may have heard bandied around lately. But what does it mean?

Essentially this is a method of software development that considers security at every stage – so rather than cybersecurity becoming an afterthought, it’s built in at every stage.

This leads to applications being far less vulnerable – crucial to manufacturers with a digital supply network with many potentially vulnerable points of entry. This also enables software to be constantly updated to take into account active threats – a crucial part of any company’s cybersecurity strategy.