Smart manufacturing is on the rise, with the global market predicted to be worth a huge $446.24 billion by 2029.
The pace that new technologies are being adopted and implemented is eye-wateringly rapid. And it’s only going to speed up, with growth within the market expected to accelerate by nearly 22% between now and 2029.
It’s easy to see why smart manufacturing has become such a key focus for the industry. The UK is on the brink of an economic recession, and staff shortages and strikes are starting to bite across a number of key industries. But crucially, most of the world’s supply chains still haven’t fully recovered from the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic. And for the UK, there are also the logistics challenges and hurdles of Brexit to overcome.
Smart technology offers a golden opportunity for optimisation. For businesses, this means doing more for less, and doing it better.
Smart tech in action
There are a number of technologies currently in use in manufacturing environments worldwide. These include automation powered by machine learning and AI technologies, which helps to reduce labour and cycle time. Automation can relieve workers of the burden of mundane and repetitive tasks, which also reducing the risk of human error.
There’s also Extended Reality (XR) for training and skill building. By using immersive technologies such as VR and AR for training, there’s no need for downtime on real-life production equipment.
Other technologies being used within the industry include 5G, Photonics (the science and technology of light) and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to monitor and analyse production processes in real time. There’s even examples of nanotechnology being used to structure matter on a minute scale.
The benefits of smart manufacturing
When implemented thoughtfully, smart technologies within manufacturing offer all kinds of benefits for firms. And for workers too – as rather than replacing staff members, smarter ways of working can improve the quality and safety of jobs for workers within the industry.
Here are just a handful of the benefits a smart factory can bring:
- Access to real-time data, which enables smarter and faster decision making
- Optimising and streamlining processes
- The ability to make rapid, agile changes to processes in real-time, to meet unexpected demands
- Increasing productivity
- Safeguarding against future shocks (such as a global health crisis, to name one obvious example).
Brendan Lowry, Innovation Partner from Digital Catapult, describes his view on the benefits of smart tech in The Manufacturer:
“The implementation of smart technologies can give manufacturing businesses unprecedented access to the real-time data and insights they need to boost the safety, efficiency and profitability of their operations. Being able to make decisions based on verified data, instead of instinct, can be invaluable – allowing manufacturers to improve worker productivity, or even the quality of the products that hit the shelves.”
Adopting smart technologies does of course require a hefty initial investment. This is why some manufacturers have been slow to leap aboard the smart manufacturing movement. Ultimately though, what smart manufacturing delivers is enormous savings in time and cost in the long run, along with the tools needed to stay competitive within the industry.
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