Manufacturing Solution

IIoT and Autonomous Robots Will Be a Major Driver of Productivity in the Coming Decade, Analysts Report

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What is Smart Manufacturing?

Smart manufacturing is a process that relies on precision machinery and combines many smart technologies, including artificial intelligence, IoT big data, cloud computing, robots, and high-speed networks, to facilitate production that can quickly scale with supply and demand. By analyzing data and using it to make decisions, companies can mass produce goods with greater efficiency and quickly meet the needs of the market.

In order to maximize competitiveness, forward-looking companies are embracing the core tenants of the smart manufacturing paradigm, including the internet of things, which in the case of industry is typically referred to as IIoT – the industrial internet of things.

What are IoT and IIoT?

At its core, the internet of things is an interconnected system of equipment that combines sensors, software, and other technology. Each device has a unique identifier and can transfer data directly to a network or other devices without need for human-to-computer or human-to-human interaction.

The industrial internet of things takes this concept beyond smart phones, thermostats, and other domestic devices, and instead leverages IoTs power to connect industrial assets such as power grids, high-precision sensors, and production equipment. With IIoT, industrial companies can integrate all aspects of production with communication software so that individual devices can monitor performance, collect data, analyze information, and immediately take action as necessary. Devices in IIoT systems can change their behaviors and/or modify their environments intelligently to adapt to changing conditions, and can do so without requiring human input.

Thanks to its ability to significantly streamline the manufacturing process, IIoT is absolutely essential for businesses that wish to remain competitive in the current decade and beyond.

Advantages of Smart Manufacturing

One of the most impactful benefits of IIoT is automated data, the bedrock of smart manufacturing. When provided with accurate, up-to-date analytics and information, managers are able to make decisions that improve the production process and significantly boost efficiency and accuracy. In fact, one 2020 survey of manufacturers demonstrated that 72% felt their organization would be profoundly impacted by IoT in the near future.

For instance, businesses can collect customer feedback and global market trend data for the AI-supported system to analyze and interpret, in order to boost product development and quality control. This also allows IIoT-equipped machines to harness data to automatically optimize production processes in smart factories.

Autonomous Mobile Robots Are the Future of Manufacturing

Another major practical implementation of smart manufacturing are AMRs, short for autonomous mobile robots. According to marketing research, the market size for AMRs is expected to hit 8.70 billion USD by 2028 and will only continue to accelerate. This rapid uptake is being driven by the increased efficiency and marketplace competitiveness that AMRs deliver. For instance, fulfillment specialists and warehouses that add AMRs to their workflows note significant improvements in key performance indicators such as inventory efficiency, productivity, and cycle time.

Just as importantly, AMRs are reliable, tireless workers that can operate continuously for 12 to 15 hours or longer. They are equipped with battery management systems and have onboard auto-charge functionality. When battery levels are low, AMRs will automatically go to a charging station to ensure they are prepared for their next task. AMRs’ reliability and stability allow businesses to free-up employees to handle higher-value tasks.

AMRs can also be deployed quickly and are highly flexible, and can coexist and cooperate safely with humans in ways that ordinary machinery cannot. Factory personnel can schedule and assign work to AMRs and monitor their progress remotely with a fleet management system (FMS), which is accessible via PC or mobile device. Multiple AMRs can even be dispatched simultaneously, and adjust their production instantly based on real-time information.

Enhancing AMR Performance with a Fleet Management System

A fleet management system allows operators to control multiple AMRs from a variety of interfaces such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Empowered by an FMS, industrial operators can take full control of the AMRs, making use of data and recommendations from the AI when assigning tasks. The FMS also provides a continuous stream of real-time information that operators can view and act on from one centralized, streamlined user interface.

Moreover, fleet management systems have a low learning curve that helps users pick them up quickly, meaning that it’s easy to integrate them into an established workflow. Because an open FMS framework can connect to systems that are already in place, most businesses will find that it facilitates easy integration and streamlines data transfers among existing systems.

Global Trends in Smart Manufacturing and Future Outlook

Globally, in 2020, the smart manufacturing market was valued at 259.63 billion USD, and that value is projected to more than double within the next decade, up to 589.98 billion USD in 2028. Smart manufacturing has boosted productivity in factories by 17 to 20%, while also lifting quality of output by 15 to 20%. Forecasters predict that, over the next five years as more and more industries adopt smart manufacturing, the boost to the global economy could be as much as 1.5 trillion USD.

For both economic and practical reasons, smart manufacturing is quickly becoming a mainstream mode of industrial production. AI has the power to deeply analyze the complex processes involved in manufacturing and ensure that peak efficiency, productivity, and profitability are achieved and maintained. As the decade rolls on, industry leaders and startups alike will discover that AI-powered robotic systems are key driver to continued competitiveness in manufacturing.

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