Modern manufacturing is an increasingly automated and technology-driven industry. It relies on the application of advanced technologies and systems that are changing the face of manufacturing in ways that were inconceivable just a few decades ago.
The digitisation of manufacturing has advanced so far that it is being called Industry 4.0 - representing the fourth industrial revolution driven by data, connectivity and cyber systems.
Read more about Industry 4.0: What it means for your business.
Latest trends in manufacturing and production technologies
Some of the biggest and the most proliferated trends that form the building blocks of Industry 4.0 include:
- cloud services - enabling virtual sharing of data and services from any location quickly and efficiently
- the Internet of Things (IoT) - transforming not just the consumer market, but the maintenance and upkeep of electronic devices used in manufacturing processes as well
- horizontal and vertical system integration - enabling companies, departments and functions to become much more cohesive, turning them into automated value chains
- nanotechnology - enabling things like faster computer processing, longer product lifecycles and super-precision manufacturing, and pioneering advancements in sectors such as space engineering and biotechnology
- advanced data analytics and predictive technologies - enabling better process control, prevention of defects and quicker response times in manufacturing
- augmented reality, artificial intelligence and industrial robotics - offering ways to increase productivity, improve quality and reduce cost by automating difficult or monotonous tasks
- simulation technologies - leveraging real-time data and mirroring the physical world in virtual models which can include machines, products and humans
- 3D printing (known also as additive manufacturing) - enabling the creation of almost any component using metal, plastic and other materials, reducing lead time and streamlining the design-to-production process
For more information on each of these technologies and how they are used in business, see Industry 4.0 technologies.
You may also want to learn about using artificial intelligence in business.
Advantages of investing in manufacturing technologies
The implementation of innovative technologies can improve the way businesses in the manufacturing sector operate. These technologies can:
- increase the efficiency of your business systems
- streamline your relationships with suppliers and customers
- increase the speed, flexibility and efficiency of the production process
- expand the range of what can be produced
Other examples of where technology can achieve better results include:
- resource management software that coordinates the production process
- accounting systems that link your order book with production, dispatch, invoice generation and stock replenishment systems
- streamlined warehousing and stock control systems
- online procurement and supply chain management software that lower costs and facilitate a just-in-time approach to production - see advantages and disadvantages of just-in-time production
Read more about the business benefits of Industry 4.0.
If you need support with using technology in your business, see Invest Northern Ireland's ICT support for business.