As manufacturing facilities incorporate greater levels of automation, the demand for new technologies continues to grow. Recent years have seen several trends create a shift in the way the industry operates. With 2017 nearing, it’s time to reflect on the automation trends that will influence and change manufacturing operations in 2017.
Machine Learning: Improving Accuracy at Every Phase
Promising an answer to many modern manufacturing challenges, machine learning is one area of technology that has been subject to rapid development in the last year. Machine learning describes computer science techniques that allow a machine to independently learn a task, rather than being programmed to complete that task. In the era of big data, the greatest advantages of machine learning will come to manufacturers with data-rich production lines. Using the technology, machines can derive patterns and information from existing datasets.
Potential uses include optical part sorting, automated quality control, failure detection and improved productivity and efficiency. Machine learning can improve production capacity by up to 20% and lower material consumption rates by 4%.
Modularization: Fulfilling the Need for Flexibility
Fulfilling customer demand will always be a priority for manufacturers. Changing consumer needs and habits require manufacturers to offer a wider range of products, without reducing product quality and consistency. Considering the competitive nature of today’s industry, the potential to create flexible production lines could not be more valuable. Modularization allows manufacturers to separate, connect or combine different production modules to create customized and varied products in one facility. This change requires the interconnection of industrial machinery and the implementation of intelligent control software.
SCADA: More than Data Acquisition
The integration of predictive analytics in modern SCADA software has made it easy for manufacturers to collect and archive production data and make future predictions based on this intelligence. However, SCADA systems provide much more than an insight into the lifespan of machinery. The integration of cloud computing with SCADA systems has enabled operators to control production from any location, further improving the flexibility of the plant.
As with any cloud migration, there are security concerns. However, as cloud security features become more sophisticated and SCADA providers increasingly adopt a security by design approach to their software, this concern is unlikely to deter manufacturers from embracing – and benefitting from – cloud-based SCADA.