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Five manufacturing trends to look for at ConExpo-Con/Agg

By |  March 6, 2020

Both the immediate and long-term future of the equipment manufacturing industry will be defined by the development of several ever-evolving and cutting-edge trends and technologies.

Many of these trends and technologies are poised to have a significant impact in 2020 and beyond. So it’s critically important for manufacturers to develop a keen understanding of what they are, how they will grow over time and how they will impact those within the industry – both this year and in the future.

The five trends to watch

1. Wearable technology. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) in industrial applications has given way to the increased prevalence of wearable technology in the manufacturing industry.

Manufacturers of all types and sizes are increasingly looking into and investing in wearable devices with different sensors that can be used by their workforce.

Photo: ipopba/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Consumers are already utilizing wearable technologies like the Apple Watch. Wearable applications for aggregate producers may not be far behind. Photo: ipopba/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

According to EHS Today, electronic features found in wearable devices allow companies and organizations to monitor and increase workplace productivity, safety and efficiency. Also, employers are now capable of collecting valuable information, tracking activities and providing customized experiences depending on needs and desires. Improvements in biosensing allow for monitoring of health parameters such as body temperature and heart rate.

Factors leading to the increased adoption of wearable technology include portability, convenience and operational efficiency. Consumers use the technology for fitness and health tracking, mobile notifications at a glance and even virtual payments. The business world has taken notice, and wearable technology is quickly becoming a fixture in manufacturing.

2. Predictive maintenance. Effective equipment maintenance is central to the success of any manufacturer, so it goes without saying that the ability to predict impending failures and mitigate downtime is incredibly valuable.
Predictive maintenance gives manufacturers the means to optimize maintenance tasks in real time, extending the life of their machinery and avoiding disruption to operations.

Seebo, a company that specializes in process-based industrial artificial intelligence, describes predictive maintenance as a method of preventing asset failure by analyzing production data to recognize patterns and identify potential issues before they occur.

Still, predictive maintenance isn’t without its challenges. In order to successfully build a predictive maintenance model, manufacturers must gain insights on the variables they collect and how often certain variable behaviors occur on the factory floor.

It’s absolutely critical for organizations to possess knowledge about each specific machine and a strong dataset of previous failures they can review. Manufacturers also have to make decisions around lead time, as the closer to failure the machine is allowed to go, the more accurate the prediction.

3. 5G/smart manufacturing. The fourth Industrial Revolution isn’t coming – it has already arrived.

Smart factories are becoming the norm in manufacturing, and they rely on connected devices to leverage technologies like automation, artificial intelligence, IoT and more. In addition, these devices are capable of sensing their environments and interacting with one another.

As factories of the future continue to grow and develop, manufacturers need to realize that they must be able to efficiently and effectively adapt the networks that connect them.

According to AT&T, 5G networks offer the industry opportunities to create new revenue streams. Along with energy and utility, the manufacturing industry stands to benefit the most from the rise of 5G. A report from Ericsson states that “the expected addressable market in 2026 will be $113 billion, a substantial 7 percent potential revenue growth from current service revenue forecasts.”

The factories of tomorrow will rely greatly on sensor technology, and they will prominently feature connected tools, utilizing data to guide the tasks of the workforce. According to AT&T, 5G’s high-capacity, wireless flexibility and low-latency performance make it the perfect choice to support manufacturers in these efforts.

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Augmented reality differs in the sense that its users are required to be at a specific location to augment their experience of reality. Photo: shotbydave/E+/Getty Images

4. Virtual reality and augmented reality. When it comes to using augmented reality and virtual reality in manufacturing, the possibilities are endless.

Whether it’s helping make processes more efficient, improving product design and development, or maintaining machinery more effectively, these technologies are capable of becoming game-changers in the coming years.

Virtual reality allows its users to move around a 360-degree virtual world and, in some cases, even interact with it. When using virtual reality, real, physical surroundings are no longer a factor and, thanks to advancements in technology, the virtual world is now being reproduced better than ever before.

Augmented reality differs in the sense that its users are required to be at a specific location to augment their experience of reality, while those who use virtual reality are completely immersed in a virtual world.

According to PwC, manufacturers are becoming more adept at finding ways to incorporate these technologies within their organizations in an effort to drive a future defined by digital connectivity. In addition, one in three manufacturers have adopted or will adopt virtual reality and augmented reality in the next three years.

5. Cybersecurity. The importance of cybersecurity in manufacturing cannot be overstated.

More and more connected devices are being integrated into organizational processes each day, so it almost goes without saying that the manufacturing industry needs to develop a keen understanding of how to best deal with them. As the industry becomes more connected over time, equipment manufacturers and their customers will be impacted in a number of ways. For example, even the simple act of charging a mobile device in a nearby USB port may lead to dire consequences. As a result, companies must be diligent in their efforts to educate employees on the potential consequences of their cyber activities.

The ability for a manufacturer to effectively protect itself today hinges upon its willingness to take the following two key steps: address organizational concerns and implement a clear and effective cybersecurity strategy.

Cybersecurity is and will remain a major concern for companies of all types and sizes. With malware attacks on the rise and many organizations having been negatively affected by the increased prevalence of ransomware, companies (both literally and figuratively) can’t afford to overlook cybersecurity as a top priority in 2020 and beyond.


Mike Schmidt is a writer with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.


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