Impactful industrial trends
Change doesn’t need to be a bad thing — Albert Einstein once said that “the measure of intelligence is the ability to change”. The changing socio-economic climate may post some levels of uncertainty, but the rapid changes taking place in industry are influencing many aspects of our day to day lives.
The Asia Pacific region is in prime position to take advantage of the changing industrial and manufacturing climate in coming years. In fact, half of APAC manufacturers are expected to implement smart factory technologies by 2022. Innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and edge computing will all play a key role to the changing face of industry and production.
The intelligent future
AI has the potential to double the rate of innovation and productivity of APAC manufacturers, meaning that facility managers across the region can expect a large amount of automation to be introduced in the coming years. In fact, a recent survey states that automation is set to account for around 23 per cent of work being completed across the region in the next three years.
However, even with the widespread knowledge of how AI will benefit industry, there is still some caution in adopting the technology. This is mostly down to the fact that the technology is currently still in development and not yet widely established, meaning some APAC businesses are hesitant to invest, as long-term capacities are currently unclear.
AI technologies encompass a large variety of different applications, some of which are gaining traction faster than others. As a result, over the coming years, it will be fundamental that APAC manufacturers understand which of these applications should be invested in, in order to to get ahead of their competitors.
Edge of reality
Smart sensors are universally touted as being an integral part of industry 4.0 and currently, these products are also in the enviable position of having more processing capacity than is needed. This means that these types of devices can take on extra responsibilities, such as analysing industrial data before it is sent to a remote location.
Processes of this sort, referred to as edge computing, not only allow for less data to be sent to the cloud but it also means that immediate analysis can be carried out on site, reducing the time to respond. This could reduce the time it takes to find and fix a problem, preventing downtime costs from spiralling.
This technology has immense potential with other applications that are gaining traction in the APAC region. For example, if a conveyor belt is transporting products across a plant from production to warehousing and one of the motors is beginning to fail, the smart sensor can automatically alert the issue to operations managers and maintenance teams. However, these alerts could also be digitalised for those that need to know.
By implementing new technology, such as AR, the system could notify the nearest maintenance worker on their AR display asking them to investigate the issue and see if immediate repairs are needed. The AR display would then be able to list common issues with the part and display the specific maintenance log for the piece in question.
In the case that the maintenance worker cannot reach the motor, or if they need a refresher on fixing the specific part that is broken, with new changing technology development, workers could access VR guides to access all the information they need. Maintenance teams with technology at their fingertips would be able to maintain the plant more effectively.
In these situations, if the plant also had an AI system in place it could, once notified by the sensors, automatically order the faulty parts from the preferred supplier before they are needed. Instigating predictive maintenance in this fashion would further reduce running costs and introduce a lean operating system to maintenance.
While these changes may seem a distant dream, statistics forecast that more than 3.2 million AR kits will be in use in the engineering sector by 2025. Google also recently revealed the Google Glass enterprise 2, a multipurpose AR headset, and noted how in one case the technology was able to reduce training time by 30 per cent. This shows that these developments are ready to be implemented.
The current global climate has been widely compared to that of the 1970s and 80s. It is no wonder that modern fashion and music are taking inspiration from that era.
This global trend is also being reflected in industrial trends. Modern smart devices, such as smart sensors, can now be easily installed onto older pieces of technology, extending their life cycle. Using these methods will help to reduce the possibility of sudden failures of difficult to source parts and ease the process of eventual replacement.
Customers are also constantly looking to increase the level of customisation that they can have in their products, manufacturers must, therefore, be able to provide these personalised products. Significant advances in 3D printing technology, process automation and the continual movement towards lean and agile production systems are increasing the flexibility of manufacturers in the APAC region.
We may only be part way through the year, but it can sometimes feel like many years of developments have happened already. Just like Einstein said, change is an indication of intelligence, and based on the amount of change and developments that have occurred already, it’s looking like it’s going to be a very smart future.