Advanced manufacturing is a type of manufacturing employed by the leaders of industry. It incorporates automation to produce high quality components as efficiently as possible. From automation in building cars, to medical devices and consumer products, there is a constant drive to increase quality, while reducing costs. With many factories today containing automated equipment, leaders in automation have begun to employ more sophisticated technologies. Read along to find out about some of the growing trends in automation engineering.
Data Collection in the Manufacturing Industry
A growing trend in advanced manufacturing is to collect and manage data generated during the manufacturing process. Quality has become a huge focus for manufacturers, especially when consumer safety is at stake. When driving down the highway, you want to be sure that the brakes on your new Honda Civic were bolted on properly. By using new technologies, such as wireless torque-controlled nut-runners, automotive manufacturers are able to guarantee the quality of every car that rolls off the production line. Actively reading the torque used to drive each bolt and saving the information collected to a database creates higher quality output. No more second-guessing the assembly technicians. Factories of the future are able to control, check and record all of the relevant details and data.
This data collection also serves to provide manufacturers a strong base to self-analyze. Where are your bottleneck points? What conditions contribute to overtime or short shipments? By collecting and organizing manufacturing data, factories can optimize their processes, and squeeze that extra bit of efficiency, enabling them to invest more in research and development. This is the cycle that allows us to create the next innovation, just around the corner.
Machine/Human Collaboration on the Manufacturing Floor
While automation is a growing trend, sometimes there’s no replacing a human’s ability to adapt, react, and interact with a particular manufacturing process.
When a human’s special abilities are required, but the process requires the speed and precision of a robot, our advanced manufacturers have a new tool to use: collaborative robots. Collaborative robots have special sensors built in to allow them to work safely around people. A person and a robot can work in the same space, allowing them to perform tasks that previously weren’t possible for a robot.
At “Scott Fetzer Electrical”, collaborative robots have been integrated into a wire trimming process to eliminate ergonomic issues associated with repetitive strain during manual wire cutting. Not only are the operators happy to give this tough-task to a robot, productivity has gone up as well. You can find out more about this exciting story here: https://www.universal-robots.com/case-stories/scott-fetzer-electrical-group/
Internet 4.0 and the Internet of Things
Mechanization and the harnessing of steam and water powered the first industrial revolution in the 1800’s. The second industrial revolution, occurring in the early 1900’s, was driven by mass production. The third industrial revolution brought us automation and computers. Today, industry is on the verge of its fourth revolution: the “Smart Factory”.
By connecting the physical tools we use in the factory to the internet, we permit a whole new means of controlling, monitoring and maintaining the systems we profit from. Smart Factories are a growing trend, collecting vast amounts of data to be analyzed. These “Big Data” sets are able to be fed into sophisticated computer programs, which can do a much better job at predicting failure. Conservative estimates factory maintenance budgets could save 30%! (Source: https://www.accenture.com/mz-en/_acnmedia/Accenture/next-gen/reassembling-industry/pdf/Accenture-Driving-Unconventional-Growth-through-IIoT.pdf )
Flexible, modular factories, with the constituent tools all connected and talking with one another can increase productivity in ways that we aren’t able to predict. What we know for sure is: manufacturers in 20 years will consider simple robotic automation “old-school”.