The emerging technology trends are no longer focused on just providing a competitive edge to industries among their competitors, but also is focused on reducing infrastructural cost, increasing flexibility, etc. Regardless of the development of new and advanced technologies, there is no one technology that is sufficient enough to keep pace with the ever-changing market conditions.
The covid-19 pandemic has also exhibited the need for companies to adopt new techniques and methods to address the disruptions in the supply chain market and maintaining customer satisfaction. Eventually, manufacturers started adopting various technologies to get their businesses back on track. Adopting 5G mobile networks has been the key factor in increasing the performance along with other emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Robotic Things, edge computing, etc. This article highlights the importance of emerging technologies in smart manufacturing industries, the key features, challenges and ways to overcome those challenges.
Key features of adopting emerging technologies in manufacturing industries
To leverage the advantages of emerging technologies in manufacturing industries, companies must first identify their capabilities and resources to maintain and deploy such technologies. Apart from implementation, companies need to put a lot of thought into the possible technical issues with partnering up with external stakeholders and managing the employees through the technical transitions. The successful implementation of technologies to shift towards smart manufacturing mainly include the three following areas.
Setting a strong foundation
As smart manufacturing includes a number of technologies and devices, quick and reliable means to transfer data becomes a crucial factor. Enabling high-speed networks will include the implementation of high-end infrastructures to provide seamless communication of devices that are located across the industry. Implementing 5G communication greatly reduces the latency. Additionally, enabling 5G connectivity along with edge computing will offer effective real-time functionalities such as augmented reality troubleshooting.
Apart from offering effective connectivity, the combination of 5G with edge computing can reduce the dependency on a single server and eliminate the need to transfer the data to a central server. This reduces the chances of data compromisation and malicious attacks to a greater extent.
Advanced product design process and customization
Developing and designing new products is an iterative process that involves conceptualization, designing, prototyping and testing. On an average scale, the research and development processes alone constitute 5% of the company’s total capital. With help of technology, these processes can be made to be much more cost and time-effective.
By adopting 3D printing methods along with AI optimized designs can reduce the prototyping cost by 75% as per Mckinsey’s reports. Artificial Intelligence has already gained a lot of attention among various business verticals. According to Statista, the global AI market is expected to reach around $126 billion by 2025. For manufacturing industries, AI can be used to analyze the data and arrive at better business decisions that provide safety and quality over products.
Optimizing production process
Manufacturing industries require abundant resources to monitor the overall production process. The implementation of IoRT along with AI-powered algorithms can effectively reduce monitoring costs. The AI-powered algorithms can anticipate the chances of failure from the data collected from sensors and the IoRT devices will enable autonomous and timely maintenance.
Production interruptions and downtimes can cost massively to industries – around $260,000/hour. With the help of AI-powered extended reality (XR), companies can work on simulations for maintenance training, remote assembly, etc which can reduce the expenditures, provided that the company has proper expertise.
Extended reality can also assist robots in performing industrial tasks that are considered risky for human beings. With 5G and edge computing, data can be transmitted in real-time at higher speeds and decreased latencies. In India alone, with advanced production techniques, the rate of production by the end of 2021 is expected to rise by 4.5%.
Challenges in adopting emerging technologies for smart manufacturing
When adopting various technologies to make a shift towards smart industries, companies have to first recognize their field of expertise like if they belong to the product and service industries, customer-facing or operational expertise. Post this, the companies have to identify the necessary technologies that are relevant to their field of expertise.
After identifying the potential technologies, the major challenge that the companies face is the implementation cost. Often, companies have to decide if they are going to be early adopters or followers when it comes to adopting various technologies. It is also highly important to consider factors such as compatibility of devices, security, vendor management, etc when adopting smart manufacturing technologies.
On the subject of integrating technologies, there are just two main things to consider – can the technologies be integrated with the existing business environment and the possible limitations of the adopted technologies. This is because, as of now, there are no universally accepted standards for adopting emerging technologies. This can be an issue when a company decides to partner with multiple vendors.
Additionally, integrating new technologies like extended reality and edge computing with the existing industrial infrastructure can be quite complex. Companies have to come up with solutions that would develop their infrastructure to support the adoption of these technologies.
Maintenance simply means keeping things intact for a long period of time. In this case, maintaining the technologies is nothing different. The technologies adopted must be beneficial to the company for a long time and must support upgrades as well. But the main concern here is the availability of skilled employees to run, maintain and enhance the capabilities of the adopted technologies. But developing management frameworks and operating guidelines for the adopted technologies in the absence of universally accepted standards is quite complex.
With the adoption of 5G, edge computing, AI, etc, there will be obvious concerns related to cybersecurity. Companies have to constantly keep themselves updated with the latest trends in the cybersecurity industry. Under unavoidable circumstances of data exposure, it is highly important to proactively manage the situation.
Ways to overcome the challenges
On the subject of preventing cyberattacks, from an external point of view, companies can adopt third-party cybersecurity experts, or mention to the vendor explicitly about the requirements in the contract such as the implementation of “track-and-trace programs” to maintain security at a higher level. Internally, security measures must be undertaken at each layer of the technology chain as mentioned below.
- Device – Being the most complex layer of all, fit-for-purpose security measures must be taken into account depending on the types of devices like computers, mobile phones, sensors, servers, etc.
- Cloud – Many industries are now relying on cloud service providers for various business operations. By the end of 2021, the adoption of cloud computing is said to increase by 23.1% from the rate of adoption in 2020. Adopting cloud infrastructure can really make the process easier. Most cloud infrastructures have built-in tools to identify and quarantine malicious attacks.
- Network – Regardless of the means of data transmission, securing the network layer is highly important to prevent the spread of malicious data. This requires robust transfer protocol analytics to categorize the incoming and outgoing traffic, attachment routing protection and denial of service (DoS) protection.
- Third-party access – As mentioned earlier, the company’s requirements have to be clearly stated on the contract. The absence of common standards is making it more essential for the companies to develop their rules, policies and standards to access their resources.
The combination of these emerging technologies has the potential to transform existing business models and offer new ways for revenue growth and opportunities for improving efficiency. Having a truly competitive advantage over potential competitors in the market, regardless of the adoption of various technologies, will only happen if the company can understand the methods that other companies in the field undertake.