The manufacturing sector has been at the forefront of technological innovation since the industrial revolution. Sophisticated robots streamline production lines and make products more consistent, while software tools provide product designers with powerful means of turning their ideas into reality.
Let’s asses six modern technologies, and see what impact their introduction has had on manufacturing businesses.
Like just about every part of the modern, interconnected economy, manufacturing businesses are making the switch to the cloud. All of the storage is outsourced to an offsite location, which cuts down on the cost of local hardware. Moreover, everyone in the business can access files remotely, wherever in the world they might be. Cloud storage also reduces risk. Manufacturers depend on the design information that their products are built from. Storing this information offsite vastly reduces the likelihood that this data will be lost due to fire, theft, or hardware failure.
Internet of Things
Nowadays, just about every device ships with embedded microcircuitry. Thanks to the availability of small devices with wireless internet embedded, every device out in the market is capable of sending a stream of information back to the manufacturer. These interconnected devices collectively form the Internet of Things. This information might concern things like the amount of power being consumed, braking distances, engine efficiencies, and a great deal more besides. While this might raise privacy concerns with many consumers, it provides manufacturers with a treasure trove of actionable data, and thus it leads to superior products.
Before they’re deemed fit for market, products must undergo rigorous testing. This includes determining the precise height, width, depth, and weight of every component. Nowadays, we have access to a broad array of measuring devices which ensure precisely that. Often, this testing process is built right into the production line – which removes the need for products to be removed and independently tested, and ensures that every product undergoes the same testing, rather than sampling one product from a batch. Take a look at a high-end hardware retailer like RS Components, and you’ll find a range of high-precision scales, laser-levels, and other such devices.
Prototyping is an essential phase of design. But it’s one that can be expensive for many manufacturers, as it demands incredibly small runs being made while all of the defects are ironed out. 3d printing offers a way of creating one-off items from plastic, without the investment in an expensive injection-molding system. A few years ago, 3d printing received an enormous amount of mainstream attention – and a 3d printer remains a permanent fixture in Research and Development departments.
Another tool that’s proven invaluable for some sorts of prototyping is virtual reality. The ability to look around the interior of a product can help designers to make informed choices. This advantage is much like that offered by 3d printing, except that this time, changes can be made instantaneously. A related technology augmented reality can provide information on issues that might delay or halt production.
Nowadays, manufacturing might be brought to a halt by an attack from outside the business. Given this, it’s critical that companies protect themselves from such attacks, and take cybersecurity seriously. This means the installation of firewalls and antivirus software, but it also means instilling a culture of vigilance among staff.