What will Manufacturing look like in 2030?
The future never seems that far away until suddenly one day it arrives without you noticing. 11 years ago, Twitter and Facebook were projects in somebody’s garage and Donald Trump was a reality TV show host. Huge change happens quicker than you think.
There are some things we won’t be able to foresee and predict in how the manufacturing industry will look in 2030 but there are some signposts that we can follow today if we look closely enough. Professor Klaus Schwab has argued in his book “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” that we are in the middle of one. The first occurred with the rise of factories in the late 1700s, the second was led by the automobile in the early 1900s then again after the Second World War with the rise of computers.
The results of all of these processes were that products could be manufactured quicker and consistently to the same standards, becoming more complex and valuable as they went on. The revolution we are living through today includes smart manufacturing, AI, robotics and the Internet of Things. What else can we expect to see in the next decade for manufacturing?
Virtual before actual
More companies are creating Virtual Reality environments of their manufacturing process to test production lines at every stage and anticipate and solve problems before they occur in the real world. This helps cut down on the actual manufacturing time and associate costs. Companies are also using Augmented Reality to connect remote workers from around the world and work together in real time on virtual problems together without the travel costs of physically assembling them all in one place at the same time.
A single machine can now create real products and parts that previously many machines would need to do and also eliminating assembly work like screwing or welding. 3D printing can also cut down on waste and reuse recyclable material like plastics in the process. If you can imagine it, you can probably 3D print it too.
Manufacturer, make thyself!
We are already seeing more automation as part of the manufacturing process and this is going to be increasing tremendously in the next decade. Most factories will be completely autonomous, running 24/7 with a level of consistency, accuracy and productivity unmatched by humans. As the robots become more advanced and use new capabilities such as image and voice recognition to replicate human interaction and instruction.
Factories of the future
In addition to VR and robotics, factories are also becoming smarter – literally. IoT sensors are now so sophisticated they can convert data into different measurement units, communicate with other machines, record statistics and constantly monitor safety and output issues. These can be analysed and tracked against quotas and accurate real-time models of predictive output and essential maintenance can be scheduled more precisely through cloud computing, big data analysis and VR. All of these emerging tech and techniques will increase efficiency to unheard of limits.
What about the workers?
With all the new manufacturing improvements and advances coming down the line, the key question is what this means for the actual human workforce employed in these jobs today and potentially in the next ten years? The most logical answer is that the jobs themselves will change rather than be replaced and the work will move towards more knowledge based roles rather than physical as robots will mean increased output, we can devote more of our time to higher thinking and managing them than trying to replicate their output and abilities.
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