By Scott Fawcett, Divisional Managing Director, Essentra Components
Over the past couple of years, the manufacturing industry has undergone a significant transition, completely changing the manufacturing process from its very core. Automation is taking over traditional manufacturing processes, ultimately driving efficiencies and improving the productivity in the industry. This evolution of practices promises to hypercharge manufacturing capabilities once and for all and it is essential that manufacturers respond to this transition and start investing in the change.
A New Wave of Automation
As technological developments continue to dominate every aspect of society, it was inevitable that digitisation was going to impact the way products are manufactured. The integration of digitisation and data exchange into the manufacturing process has led to the rapid growth of what is known as smart factories. These facilities, which incorporate smart planning, smart machines and smart data, are completely changing traditional manufacturing processes.
Manufacturers will now be able to collect and analyse data with a more streamlined approach, which, in turn, will enable them to make more informed decisions on inventory, labour planning, purchasing and production. The creation of smart machines, linked to each other and to the cloud, ultimately speeds up set up times and installation processes, driving efficiencies in production whilst also reducing costs. By linking these smart machines to the cloud, process engineers are able to access machines remotely, diagnosing and resolving problems more quickly, ensuring the machines are back up and running in the shortest time possible. The quick exchange of information boosts the agility and responsivity of the entire chain.
According to a report by Accenture, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will add a staggering $14.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030. The company predicts that increased automation will result in machines that can order their own replacement parts or send out automated email alerts to technicians to report issues, prior to a crisis. The important thing here is proactivity, automated machines will be able to flag any issues ahead of time instead of waiting to react once the issue has occurred. This will save not only time but ultimately money, leading to a massive reduction in cost per unit.
Time is of the Essence
There is simply no time to waste when it comes to fully automating the manufacturing process. Evidently, this is no small task and manufacturers must invest time and money into this vital upgrade. However, manufacturers must be reassured in the fact that once their processes are fully automated, the company will be able to reap the rewards for many years to come.
A recent study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) on the rise of Industry 4.0 revealed that a third of companies surveyed have already started to digitise their supply chains, and 72% of respondents expect to do so in the next five years. The report also showed that forward-thinking manufacturers can expect annual efficiency gains of 4.1%, whilst boosting revenue by 2.6% a year. Essentra Components is responding to this demand and is working to replace and upgrade its existing injection moulding machines, in order to bolster its capabilities and move towards a more digitised and automated model. The company will upgrade another 3 machines in the near future, increasing the number of fully connected machines to 27.
Automation will ultimately drive productivity, improving the experience for both the manufacturer and the customer. Manufacturers wanting to compete on a global scale must begin automating their manufacturing processes immediately or risk being left behind. There is no quick fix to investing in the digitisation and automation of the entire manufacturing process; it is a long-term investment but companies will be able to reap the rewards for many years to come.