While COVID-19 has been disruptive across industries, the manufacturing industry is presented with an opportunity to come out the other side stronger than before.
Manufacturers must re-examine their processes and even their entire business model to find new efficiencies and ways to compete with offshore firms.
As the sector moves closer to Industry 4.0, it’s essential for manufacturers to be aware of the technologies that are likely to shape strategies and priorities across the next five years, according to Epicor Software.
“Manufacturing is a sector ideally placed to benefit from emerging technologies,” says Greg O’Loan, regional vice president, ANZ, Epicor Software Corporation.
“Industry 4.0 is a global concept that predicts the manufacturing sector will experience a fourth industrial revolution, this time based on digital technology.
“With the right solutions in place, Australian manufacturers will be able to make smarter decisions, optimise processes, deliver a better customer experience and, ultimately, outperform their overseas counterparts.
“To achieve this, decision-makers in manufacturing firms need to gain a thorough understanding of the solutions lining up to transform the industry in the next five years.”
Epicor has identified the top four areas of technology that will drive digital transformation in the manufacturing sector:
1. Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI and data strategies are fundamental for all businesses, and organisations that don’t already have a roadmap in place for AI could face an uphill battle to compete. About 75 percent of C-suite executives surveyed by Accenture say they could go out of business if they don’t scale AI in the next five years.
In manufacturing, AI can be used for everything from optimising production lines to automating defect checking, resulting in fewer costly defects and increasing overall productivity.
2. Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G
IoT solutions are continuing to gain rapid momentum in manufacturing where they can be used for a huge variety of purposes. For example, IoT sensors can determine when conditions become suboptimal for machine operation and adjust the air conditioning accordingly. The sensors can track the movement of components and products through the facility to ensure they’re following the most efficient pathways. They can also continue to track finished products through logistics and supply chains to gain valuable insights into how these products are transported, sold, and used.
The 5G network will be essential to carry the weight of the traffic that will be created by IoT solutions, as more connected organisations add more IoT solutions.
Automation has long been a key technology for manufacturing firms. Most digital transformation programs are leveraging automation already; now, a new era of so-called “hyperautomation” will use AI and machine learning to rapidly identify and automate all possible business processes. Manufacturers can use this technology to improve production efficiency and configure assembly processes for maximum productivity.
Originally known as the system that underpinned digital currencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain will remain highly relevant for manufacturers as it provides a secure distributed ledger to maintain accurate and incontrovertible records on everything from contracts and transactions to financing and recordkeeping. For example, recording transactions between multiple parties in a verifiable and permanent way can help manufacturers manage their supply chain more effectively.
“The convergence of these four technologies presents significant opportunities for manufacturers that aim to emerge from COVID-19 more resilient and stronger than before,” says Mr O’Loan.
“Regardless of size or heritage, every manufacturer must consider how these technologies can be integrated into their daily operations or risk falling behind their better-resourced competitors.
“The cost savings and efficiency benefits that these technologies can deliver can be truly transformational, so now is the time to start planning.”