PwC: Manufacturers Need to Embrace New Technology

PwC: Manufacturers Need to Embrace New Technology

Feb 1, 2016

By Bill Koenig, Manufacturing Engineering

Manufacturers need to embrace technology such as “connected” factories, 3D printing and “cobotics,” despite a slowing manufacturing economy, Pricewaterhouse Coopers said in a report.

“Manufacturing may be facing some headwinds, but it’s undeniably in the midst of a technological renaissance that is transforming the look, systems, and processes of the modern factory,” the consulting company said in an annual report about manufacturing trends.

“Despite the risks – and despite recent history – industrial manufacturing companies cannot afford to ignore these advances,” PwC said. “By embracing them now, they can improve productivity in their own plants, compete against rivals, and maintain an edge with customers.”

Manufacturing has seen an economic slowdown the past year. The economy in China, a key market for major manufacturers, is slowing. A strong dollar makes US-produced goods more expensive in overseas markets.

Despite that, PwC urged manufacturers to adopt these technologies:

–Internet of Things, or IoT, where machines, sensors and computers are connected by way of the Internet. Manufacturers already monitor and adjust equipment via mobile devices.

The PwC report said IoT will continue to advance and companies need to use it. Such companies “must determine precisely what data is most valuable to collect,” PwC said.

“Next-generation equipment will require a next-generation mix of workers, which should include employees who can design and build IoT products as well as data scientists who can analyze output,” according to the report.

–Advanced robots. PwC said newer robots “are employed to complement rather than replace workers.” Such technology is known as “cobotics.”

“These applications will expand as automation developers introduce more sophisticated sensors and more adaptable, highly functional robotic equipment that will let humans and machines interact deftly on the factory floor,” PwC said.

–Augmented reality, in which “text, graphics, audio, and other virtual enhancements” are “superimposed onto goggles” worn by users. Some manufacturers are using the technology for training and to “enable faster responses to maintenance requests” and other tasks, PwC said.

–3D printing: Printing of parts directly from a digital design isn’t new but is gaining momentum, particularly as more metals are used in 3D printing.

“3D printing is still in its infancy,” PwC said. “Companies must begin planning for the incorporation of this technology now. As an initial step, industrial manufacturing companies should apply 3D printing technology to the product development and prototyping process.”

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