Smart manufacturing, or the use of cutting-edge technology to improve the effectiveness of conventional manufacturing processes, fosters the development of a more flexible and effective industrial base. Specialists from Texas A&M University College of Engineering and SecureAmerica Institute (SAI) discuss why using these advances is essential to moving the industry ahead.

What is smart manufacturing?

Dr. Alaa Elwany, an assistant professor in the Wm Michael Barnes ’64 Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University College of Engineering, said, “Smart manufacturing procedures allow greater linkage and communication across industrial systems.” They aid in streamlining processes so that systems do not function in isolation.

Picture yourself inside a single, sizable industrial facility that has several machinery and employees. Each system should communicate to exchange resources, initiate maintenance tasks, order replacement parts, and more — all in one place. At an organization that requires that all machines communicate successfully, this kind of connection is also needed across several facilities around the United States.

For the whole network of linked manufacturing equipment to create competent and lucrative operations, “smart manufacturing technologies help in detecting issue areas,” according to Elwany.

A powerful, intelligent manufacturing technology that supports production is digital twins. Before a physical prototype is made, an identical virtual version of the product or system is created as a digital twin. Manufacturers may do simulations, iterations, and testing on the design of a product in this virtual environment to establish feasibility before exorbitant manufacturing expenses is paid.

Small and medium-sized businesses would be severely disadvantaged if they don’t adapt, according to Bukkapatnam. There will be a digital gap between firms with sophisticated skills and those without. Large enterprises may survive on an even playing field thanks to intelligent manufacturing, and SMEs given access to digital resources are included.

To supply the technological know-how required for the more significant digital transformation of industry, organizations like the SecureAmerica Institute are essential, according to Elwany. The most critical resource we have to create new certificate programs, continuing education programs, and courses to educate future industrial workers in emerging technologies is the thought leadership of SAI.

The Top 6 Trends in Manufacturing Technology

Quicker adoption of digital technology

Transformative technologies are not only growing and improving; they are also beginning to cooperate. We can access various new technologies, like augmented reality, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AR). Manufacturers first believed these tools operated independently, providing only one significant advantage as they became commonplace and the prerequisites for a “factory of the future.”

These technologies were designed to operate with others, however. Their long-term nature is pushed, and their full potential is unlocked by recognizing and using the advantages they provide together. For instance, AR and cloud computing are opening up new methods for businesses to see and access data.

The development of the digital twin for manufacturing—a near real-time digital representation of a physical product or process that aids in maximizing business performance—is also being fueled by the convergence of these technologies.

The Industrial Internet of Things and Data (IIoT)

The usage of connected devices in industrial contexts has dramatically increased, enabling manufacturers to gather valuable data that might provide insights to enhance their processes.

Manual procedures may now be monitored more simply. Manufacturers may see individual workstation inputs, factory effectiveness, and corporate performance in real time by employing top industry solutions like AR. Manufacturers may use the extraordinary knowledge gained from tracking operational performance development across three levels to make better decisions.

Moreover, the IoT data that cutting-edge manufacturing systems gather offers a perception of the efficiency of the equipment. Manufacturing technologies provide insight into the system itself with predictive maintenance capabilities. By providing utilization information ahead of system breakdowns and increasing the lifespan of equipment, they monitor the lifespan of a system and avoid outages.

Increasing augmented reality’s scope

While the manufacturing sector has increasingly emphasized technology, it’s crucial to remember that people still carry out 72% of industrial jobs. As a result, we must accept that our employees must benefit from our ongoing innovation.

The secret to bridging the gap between humans and machines is augmented reality. It is a cutting-edge, well-established technology that helps people with all aspects of their jobs. Augmented reality improves a worker’s experience and performance by providing visual and aural clues in their immediate environment, helping them through difficult jobs with maximum efficiency and productivity.

By directing and monitoring manual procedures, AR helps us rethink how we run our business. Top manufacturers continue to tackle basic, repetitive activities via automation. Nevertheless, research at the University of Patras found that by combining AR with automation, “AR interfaces may integrate into the working environment and improve it, making the interaction with [robots] natural and intuitive.”

When thinking about the future of manufacturing, augmented reality is the ideal first step. It accelerates firms’ digital transition into the people-centric components of Industry 5.0 while also bringing them up to Industry 4.0 requirements.

Retraining Employees

A more advanced set of worker skills are needed as the industrial sector dramatically expands its digital intelligence. However, finding qualified individuals prepared to start on the line quickly—in any role—is difficult due to lengthy, incomplete training programs, a poor understanding of job requirements, and a lack of employees available to transition into middle-skill occupations.

To help businesses find and hire suitable candidates for open positions, organizations like MxD have published free recruiting guidelines. In other cases, organizations have implemented rotating programs to facilitate the redeployment of employees into new jobs. Manufacturers are using certain new technologies to address the skills gap. AR may significantly speed up training and lessen disruptive training variation.

The Development of Reshoring

Manufacturers are building cutting-edge factories for the future, but they are also ensuring that they are future-proof. We learned how quickly the supply chain may shift from the COVID-19 epidemic. Reshoring has been a primary priority due to the need to monitor our suppliers and distribution carefully ever since.

Assistive and automated technology is increasingly prevalent in the U.S., supporting procedures previously susceptible to human mistakes. Labor and wage prices are rising abroad. Transportation is timelier and less costly. Supporting infrastructure is already in place and simpler to create.

Taking Action on Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion

Males make up about two-thirds of the workforce in manufacturing. White people make up over 70%. Manufacturing must be inclusive and accessible to all people during the comprehensive industrial revolution. In 2023, businesses will quicken their DEI efforts. Eliminating the obstacles that prevent all employees from having equal access to resources, opportunities, and opportunities will significantly and positively affect the entire organization.

According to Deloitte data, women are almost twice as likely to quit the sector as males, partly due to a lack of flexible work schedules and work/life balance. It has been shown that taking steps to foster a welcoming, non-discriminatory workplace culture helps businesses perform better, innovate, and attract and keep talent.

A solution component may also use the diverse skills of those with impairments. Over 1 in 8 Americans, and that figure rises every year, have a handicap, according to the Institute on Disability’s 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report. Businesses that successfully integrate individuals with impairments may access a significant and primarily untapped new talent pool.

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