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Future Trends in Industrial Automation

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Future Trends in Industrial Automation

Industrial automation allows businesses to streamline production, inspection, processing, and assembling with minimal human participation. This leads to a wide range of benefits, from improved accuracy and quality to increased productivity.

In addition, it reduces the risk of worker injuries and occupational hazards. However, many manufacturing leaders are unsure where to start with automation.

Artificial Intelligence

When most people think of industrial automation, they imagine large robotic arms performing repetitive duties on assembly lines. But advances in connectivity technology (including 5G, Wi-Fi6, and more), onboard computing, and AI/machine learning techniques are pushing the boundaries of robots’ autonomous capabilities. Robots are getting smaller, faster, more maneuverable, and more able to interact with humans organically. As these improvements continue, they’ll enable even more types of automated manufacturing processes.

Automation technology has been available for decades but is often gated behind capital projects requiring specialized engineering and programming skills. However, new technologies are enabling business leaders to take a different approach to automation that’s based on intelligent interconnection and low- or no-code solutions. These powerful innovations provide operations personnel with the ability to make changes in real-time that are driven by data visualization and predictive analytics. These adjustments can range from minor improvements suggested by the platform to more advanced forms of machine learning-enabled automated decision-making.

These capabilities can also be applied to supply chain management, allowing businesses to better forecast component fulfillment and delivery needs. They can even be used to predict the impact of supply chain disruptions and mitigate them.

As these applications continue to evolve, they can improve everything from quality standards to workforce resourcing. They can also help businesses meet regulatory policies and provide a richer customer experience. Finally, they can reduce operational costs by streamlining production and reducing the need for workers in areas such as maintenance.

In addition to the technical benefits of automation, it can offer various other social and environmental benefits. For example, it can help lower building occupancy, which can reduce energy use and CO2 emissions. It can also help streamline complex emergency evacuation plans by eliminating the need for human intervention. Additionally, it can lead to more sustainable business practices by reducing waste and the need for parking lots and energy-intensive commutes.

As a result, the pace of adoption of these technologies is likely to accelerate as organizations look for ways to address supply chain pressures and labor shortages. They can achieve operational efficiency, increase productivity, and deliver a more consistent customer experience while reducing operating costs.

Interconnected Robots

In manufacturing, robots are used to increase productivity, minimize labor costs, and address workforce shortages. However, implementing automation can be complex and expensive. Whether companies can reap the expected ROI depends on how well they implement and maintain the technology. Fortunately, these challenges are getting easier to overcome. For example, sensors are becoming less expensive and more capable. More options for data transmission (Ethernet, wireless) are available, and package sizes continue to shrink.

In addition, AI is making industrial automation more cost-effective. By enabling machines to identify patterns and anomalies in their environment, AI helps manufacturers optimize production, reduce downtime, and improve the quality of products. AI also improves the precision of industrial robots and drones and the effectiveness of maintenance operations and material handling. This allows companies to save on equipment costs and avoid costly mistakes.

The emergence of collaborative robots (cobots) is another significant trend in industrial automation. These flexible robots work alongside humans to automate repetitive tasks, freeing human employees for more complicated duties. Cobots are especially useful for hazardous environments and high-risk tasks that would be difficult or dangerous for human workers to perform. Startups are developing new technologies for cobots, such as end-of-arm tools that streamline welding, picking, and 3D printing workflows, as well as self-healing robots that reduce maintenance costs.

Robots are also redefining the concept of manufacturing in the digital economy. As a result, many knowledge-work jobs that were previously done by workers in high-wage countries are now being outsourced to lower-wage countries. This includes engineering services, which has caused a wave of job loss for many US and European engineers. But as the cost of robotics continues to decline, these companies will be able to reshore this work and regain a competitive advantage.

In the future, industrial automation will continue to be important for manufacturers seeking to reshore operations and boost productivity. However, it’s unlikely that automation will reestablish growth like it did in the past. Instead, the industry will continue to see incremental advances in technology that enhance decision-making, flexibility, reliability, and responsiveness.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming industrial automation. Sensors connected to the Internet allow manufacturers to collect and analyze data in real-time to make operational decisions, optimize production, and reduce downtime. In addition, interconnected robots, such as those from South Korean startup DAIM Research or Spanish startup Inovako, work alongside humans and perform tasks requiring high precision and efficiency.

The combination of these technologies is known as “Industry 4.0.” The goal of Industry 4.0 is to create smart factories with self-optimizing, flexible, and adaptive manufacturing processes. This is possible because AI technology allows machines to identify and address issues before they affect production and prevent potential equipment failures.

Industrial automation is also enabling companies to track and monitor the performance of their assets through predictive analytics, which allows them to anticipate changes from the factory floor to global markets and act on them before they impact operations. Additionally, low- and no-code solutions are making it easier to implement automation across the organization without the need for specialized software developers. This agility is critical in a manufacturing sector that must respond quickly to constantly changing conditions.

As a result of these trends, industrial automation is becoming increasingly accessible to all levels of employees and accelerating digital transformation across the enterprise. Manufacturers can use these tools to improve their workflow and become more nimble while creating an environment that supports employee happiness and productivity.

One of the biggest challenges to industrial automation is figuring out where human workers fit in. While automation will certainly replace some jobs, it will also help them work more efficiently and provide a better-quality product.

A company’s ability to respond to changing market conditions requires them to have access to real-time operational data. However, gathering, analyzing, and responding to this data is challenging when they have many systems running on different platforms. The good news is that IoT devices, edge computing, ML and AI, and low-code automation can help eliminate organizational, process, data, and system silos to give employees a holistic view of their operations.

Big Data

The new technology in industrial automation is not just bringing more flexibility, it is also changing the way that businesses work. For example, programmable logic controllers (PLC) are being used in more and more industries. They are easier to program and can be accessed from the cloud, making them more efficient. This means that companies can now change their operations more quickly and easily. This is a vital shift because it allows them to adapt quickly to changes in their markets.

These technological advances can help manufacturers save money and resources by reducing waste, power consumption, and emissions. They can also improve productivity and quality. In addition, they are helping to reduce the amount of manual labor required in factories, and they are enabling businesses to better meet customer expectations.

Another important trend in industrial automation is the increased use of robots. These robots can be used to perform dangerous, repetitive, or high-precision tasks that humans aren’t able to do. They can also be integrated with other systems and machines to make them more collaborative. This makes them more flexible and enables them to handle more complex tasks.

Other trends in industrial automation include the use of artificial intelligence and interconnected devices. These technologies allow manufacturers to collect and analyze large amounts of data, which can be used to optimize production processes. They can also predict when a machine might need maintenance or even break down. This information is then used to make informed decisions about how to improve the process.

In addition, these technologies allow manufacturers to track the status of their materials in real-time. This information can then be used to improve supply chain efficiency and avoid production delays. These technologies are also allowing companies to track their environmental footprint, which is increasingly important in today’s business world.

Finally, the increased availability of turnkey robotics solutions is allowing more manufacturers to take advantage of automation. These products allow manufacturing managers to deploy robots more quickly and easily without having to spend a lot of money on programming. Similarly, many no- and low-code automation solutions are available that allow manufacturing leaders to create their own automated workflows using drag-and-drop interfaces.

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