Predictions 2020: Manufacturing

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Trends, technologies, key topics, and issues around manufacturing that will shape up 2020

Nigel Thomas
         Nigel Thomas

In 2020, Britain’s manufacturing industry is expected to enter a new era. Manufacturers will see a reduction in their operating costs, enabling them to get the job done far more quickly and efficiently than ever before. They’ll be able to streamline their production processes with advanced planning techniques and they’ll be able to provide much better support to their customers. So, is 2020 the year when the industrial revolution will gather full steam?

According to Nigel Thomas, our defence and aerospace expert, 2020 will be the year that will bring about tech upgrades to attain greater efficiencies. Here is what our expert says is coming up for the sector in the New Year:

Manufacturers adopt cloud computing

Although the industry’s adoption of digital technologies like cloud computing has been a slow one, the tide is turning and we will see greater uptake in 2020.The manufacturing, aerospace and defence sectors will begin to consume services from the cloud and move beyond projects running on legacy IT systems that end up being capex intensive. This would be a big move particularly for the aerospace and defence industry where security is of paramount importance.

UK ups the IIOT game

Currently, UK lags behind the curve of adopting Industrial IoT and most companies adopt a very simple modus operandi – if something breaks, they fix it. 2020 could be the year that brings about the much needed, tech-enabled change for the manufacturing industry with a greater uptake of manufacturing automation. In 2020, the sector is likely to adopt IIoT at scale and reap the benefits. From truly understanding how assets like cars, trucks and aircraft are operating, to undertaking industrial IOT for proactive preventive maintenance for them in advance of problems happening, allowing for a more efficient and cost-effective maintenance process. This will also help in fleet management and planning for demand in advance.

Automation in manufacturing will make software smart

The manufacturing industry in the UK is looking to take up software automation in many areas, particularly in repetitive, low-value tasks like invoice matching and supply chain scheduling. These tasks can be handled by software bots and machine learning – becoming more ‘intelligent’ as it learns about tasks along the way. The business case for intelligent Process Automation (iPA) offers the added advantage of freeing up the workforce to take up more value-add work, allowing human beings to innovate and evolve skills as software supplements human intelligence.  As more traditional and routine tasks become automated with the introduction of manufacturing automation, organisations are placing a premium on soft skills, from self-awareness to relationship management and communication, according to a recent report from the Capgemini Research Institute, Emotional Intelligence – the essential skillset for the age of AI

Productivity takes centre stage

According to the Office of National Statistics, productivity in the UK fell at its fastest annual pace in five years in 2019.  Conscious of this, manufacturers are looking to adopt latest technologies like IIOT and automation to improve levels of productivity in the UK, with an increase in output as the primary focus. To make this possible, 2020 will see a rise in the use of cobots. Working side by side with humans, cobots can complete complex or repetitive tasks, allowing highly skilled human workers to make use of the superior speed, strength and precision that cobots bring, allowing for greater efficiency and an increase in productivity on the shop floor.

Greater usage of augmented reality / virtual reality (AR/VR)

After years of maturing, AR/VR is finally starting to find a natural home on the shop floor. Manufactures have seen the value of these technologies in the simulation of the reconfiguring of factory floors or production lines and the simulation of working tasks. It also speeds up workforce training, ensuring more time is spent on the shop floor and leads to increased productivity in a shorter timespan.  In 2019 manufactures have seen real value from these technologies solving specific business problems and 2020 will see greater adoption.

Change in data strategies

Over the past few years, manufacturing and engineering firms in the UK have begun to understand that data is a strategic asset that may be the main differentiator against their competition. In parallel, there is an increased awareness that historical data, captured over the past few decades, is not good enough to support changes and innovation that manufacturers would want to bring about on the shop floor.

As a result, data strategies are becoming critical and are being reshaped, ensuring businesses have greater visibility into production data, usage data and market data. This is particularly significant for the larger engineering and manufacturing businesses, driving the creation of new IP that can lead to the introduction of more services to the market.

AI will come naturally with enterprise applications

The megatrend for the next five years for the manufacturing industry is that of artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing. This means AI could be being embedded in almost all enterprise apps used by manufacturers. One of the main use cases of AI for manufacturers will be of computer vision: the ability of artificially intelligent systems to “see” like humans has been a subject of increasing interest and rigorous research for decades now. With computer vision embedded in the machines on the shop floor, manufactures will be able to inspect the production process and finished products for any defects, understand the working models of machinery and preferred setting for different workloads, among other uses.

In short, while the manufacturing sector has been slow in its adoption, AI is set to become ubiquitous for the industry at large. A recent report from the Capgemini Research Institute, Smart Factories @Scale, , shows organisations worldwide are showing an increasing appetite for smart factory initiatives today and one-third of factories have already been transformed into smart facilities.


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