In recent years, significant growth in Industry 4.0 digitalisation has had a major impact on the manufacturing sector.
The shift from traditional, paper-based methods to more streamlined digital solutions is helping all kinds of manufacturers, from textiles and food to pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals, boost their productivity, reduce costs and thus, become more operationally efficient.
Indeed, in a recent study by Getac and Statista, a quarter of US manufacturers said they believe that digitalisation can reduce their costs by as much as 30% over time.
As digital transformation evolves, the number of new tools and solutions available to manufacturers also continues to grow, offering them a wide range of competitive advantages. Three of the most important tools coming to the fore are artificial intelligence, extended reality and automation, all of which are helping meet tomorrow’s challenges today.
This article will look at each of these in more detail and discuss how they are expected to shape the future of the manufacturing industry going forward.
Artificial Intelligence for Industry 4.0
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) across all manufacturing industries is estimated to grow at an annual rate of 57.2% over the next five years, creating a market worth over €14.02 billion by 2026. As such, it’s critical that manufacturers invest in IT equipment that is able to support specialist industrial applications like AI right out the box, helping them to seamlessly integrate the technology into their processes when the time comes.
An ever-increasing use of Extended Reality
Extended Reality, sometimes called XR or Cross Reality, is an umbrella term referring to technologies that create computer-generated environments and objects. These different technologies are distinguished and defined firstly by the relationship they create between the real and virtual worlds. While in Augmented Reality (AR), the user observes virtual objects that complement the real world, Virtual Reality (VR) immerses the user in a purely virtual environment. The Extended Reality market is booming worldwide and is expected to reach a total of 29.39 billion euros by 2023, an increase of 170% in just two years, with the US and Europe accounting for 60% of the market.
The use of these advanced technologies requires very low latency times. This is why it’s imperative for suppliers of laptops and tablets to equip their devices with advanced technologies such as LiFi. LiFi (or Light Fidelity) is a wireless communication technology based on the use of visible light, unlike Wi-Fi, which occupies the radio frequency band of the electromagnetic spectrum. This technology has many advantages: light does not interfere with radio frequencies, which ensures that LiFi is compatible with radio technologies (Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, etc.). Moreover, light, unlike radio waves, cannot pass through walls, which ensures the partitioning and security of data on both sides of the walls.
Automation of the manufacturing industry
The use of robots and automation has already become a reality in many parts of the manufacturing sector. For example, in Germany, an estimated 59% of manufacturers already use these technologies in some shape or form. As a result, the global robotics market is expected to grow by 20% annually over the next five years, with automation growing by roughly 9% per year between 2018 and 2025. The total volume is expected to be around 62.13 billion euros by 2026.
By equipping themselves with the right tools now, such as rugged IT equipment, enterprise resource planning and manufacturing execution systems, manufacturers can create an IT infrastructure that allows them to capitalise on these exciting new technologies at the earliest opportunity. Doing so will help position them at the forefront of the sector and future proof their investment for many years to come.
The impact of COVID-19 on digital transformation
While the pace of digital transformation in manufacturing has been steadily growing for a number of years, the emergence of COVID-19 in early 2020 sent it into overdrive. Microsoft even estimated that over two years of digital transformation took place in the first two months of the pandemic. Despite the timeline not being of their choosing, this rapid shift to digital solutions has helped many manufacturers weather the storm created by global lockdowns and strict travel restrictions, leaving them better positioned for the future.
As digitalisation continues to sweep through the manufacturing industry, the volume and variety of exciting solutions available to manufacturers is growing all the time. New technologies like AI, Extended Reality, LiFi, automation and robotics can all significantly improve the productivity and profitability of organisations that choose to embrace them, helping future proof their operations in the process.
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