The manufacturing facilities of the future will utilize automation that is exceedingly simple to operate, safe, adaptable, and economical, assisted by AI and standardized software and hardware interfaces. The disruptive technologies necessary to make all of this happen are now here in many crucial ways, driven by demand from inside the industrial industry itself. These technologies provide a tantalizing view of factory automation’s future.
Back To The Future
Traditional industrial automation was the only game in a town twenty years ago, and only major corporations were invited to participate owing to the expense and complexity required. Traditional industrial automation best suits low-mix/high-volume manufacturing needs costly programming skills, and has a big footprint. To safeguard human employees, considerable safety guarding and fences are also required.
Traditional industrial automation continues to dominate the worldwide industrial robots industry. However, collaborative robots (or cobots) are the fastest-growing section of the industrial robot industry, providing crucial insights into the future of production automation.
The introduction of cobots and lightweight industrial robots over the last 15 years has enabled small- to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to profit from automation for the first time, owing to their simplicity of use, minimal capital investment, tiny footprint, flexibility, and safe operability around people. It has also demonstrated the need to offer automation firms of all types with high safety, usability, and adaptability solutions to their clients.
How the factory of the future will look like?
The future factory is a concept for how manufacturers might boost output in three dimensions: plant structure, plant digitalization, and plant operations. Here’s a glimpse at how manufacturing operations could appear in the not-too-distant future.
Human-tech augmentation: Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies automate processes and machines, increasing the flexibility and adaptability of manufacturing systems. Data-driven analytics in the smart factory is very adaptable and capable of playing many functions in the business, such as counselor or supporter.
For example, an AI-powered co-bot can help with industrial operations by keeping staff on track, maintaining efficiency, and finally resolving certain basic concerns. At its heart, augmentative systems enable firms to satisfy increasing demand while improving worker efficiency, safety, and productivity.
The use of low-code/no-code: Low-code/no-code (LCNC) tools are intended to make it relatively easy for non-technical persons to develop, construct, and launch applications swiftly. These technologies use visual programming interfaces to answer business challenges faster than traditional software development. Manufacturers benefit from LCNC tools because they enable the creation of various applications necessary to construct data-driven factories. LCNC systems are becoming increasingly popular among manufacturers because of their ability to modernize processes, customize digital solutions, and provide flexibility for installation and, ultimately, effective digital transformation.
Robotics in collaboration with people: A new form of the robot is rising: “cobots” or “collaborative robots.” Cobots are intelligent robots that work alongside humans to help them accomplish more with less effort. Previously, factory robots were meant to work alone and do single jobs.
A connected and flexible digital shop floor: Manufacturers will use the Internet of Things (IoT) to transform product development and manufacturing in the smart factory. IoT refers to a group of technologies that connect physical items into networks so that they may monitor their immediate environment, gather data, and interact with one another and with external elements such as other systems and humans.
When paired with analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), IoT and connectivity will increase asset efficiency while reducing downtime and unexpected maintenance. This involves measuring productivity across the manufacturing floor and expediting new product development by delivering data to decision-makers faster than ever before.
This will also allow manufacturers to discover new sources of value in services, such as IoT devices tracking the finished product from the factory to the customer’s hands. These devices may send back location, time, and other parameters to improve services and products in a smart manufacturing product lifecycle.
Sustainable supply chains: The factory of the future is highly efficient and environmentally friendly. Manufacturers may get more insight into their manufacturing processes, equipment wear and tear, and, most critically, energy use by utilizing digital technologies. Armed with this information, businesses can then optimize production, increase asset efficiency, and perform predictive maintenance to minimize energy loads as well as material and water waste – all of which are critical aspects of building sustainability.
India’s manufacturing sector
According to the Indian government, India’s manufacturing industry will surpass $1 trillion by 2025.
However, manufacturers must go beyond the current state, characterized by manual inputs, a lack of ICT integration in production, and major capability gaps, to advance to the next stage and close the crucial technological gaps.
To that aim, the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative lays the framework for small and large businesses to build sophisticated manufacturing skills and invest in technological advancement. Furthermore, programs such as green corridors and smart cities have been developed to promote vital technological interventions in a variety of industries. In addition to producing employment, these programs appeal to a new generation of employees with diverse values and talents, which increases synergy.
Given India’s ambition to increase manufacturing’s contribution to GDP from 16 percent presently to 25 percent by 2022, creating 100 million new jobs in the process, corporations must develop medium and long-term strategic plans to capitalize on the benefits of Industry 4.0.
Integration simplicity: Because of advances in processing power, software development methodologies, and networking technologies, constructing, deploying, and maintaining robots is now faster and less expensive than before. Sensors and actuators, for example, used to have to be individually linked to robot controllers with dedicated cabling via terminal racks, connectors, and junction boxes; currently, plug-and-play technologies allow components to be connected using simplified network wiring.
Robots take on new responsibilities: Today, these features are assisting in increasing robot adoption in the kind of applications where they already excel: repetitive, high-volume industrial jobs. As the cost and complexity of automating jobs with robots decreases, it is probable that the firms presently utilizing robots will utilize them even more. However, we anticipate a more fundamental shift in the kind of jobs for which robots will become both technically and economically viable in the next five to ten years.
Complex tasks: While today’s general-purpose robots have a repeated precision of 0.10 millimeters, certain modern robot designs have repeatable accuracy of 0.02 millimeters. Future generations are anticipated to provide even more accuracy. Robots are also getting more coordinated, thanks to the advent of controllers that can drive dozens of axes simultaneously, allowing numerous robots to collaborate on the same job.
Such talents will enable kids to take part in more sensitive jobs like threading needles or manufacturing very complicated electrical equipment.
Collaborating with others
Thanks to advanced safety systems, robots may work alongside humans in new jobs. If sensors detect a collision with an operator, the robot will automatically slow down or change its direction to avoid it. This technology enables the employment of robots for specific jobs on formerly manual production lines. And the elimination of safety fences and interlocks means cheaper expenditures, which is especially beneficial to small businesses.
The capacity to place robots and humans side by side and reallocate duties between them boosts efficiency by allowing businesses to adjust manufacturing lines when demand varies. Companies will also have significantly greater flexibility in deciding which activities to automate with robots and which to perform manually.
Making the right automation decisions
With so much technical potential at their disposal, how do businesses choose the optimum automation strategy? It’s too easy to get carried away with automation for its sake. Still, the end consequence is that initiatives that cost too much, take too long to deploy, and fail to meet their business objectives.
An effective automation approach necessitates sound judgments at several levels. Companies must decide which operations to automate, how much automation to deploy (from simple programmable logic controllers to very sophisticated robots led by sensors and clever adaptive algorithms), and which technologies to implement.
Automation systems that are less expensive, smarter, and more flexible are already revolutionizing manufacturing in a variety of ways. While the technology becomes easier to apply, the business considerations will not. Companies will need to take a comprehensive and methodical approach to capture the full value of the potential given by these new systems, aligning their automation strategy closely with the current and future demands of the business.
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