Four predictions for manufacturing technology in 2017

As 2017 kicks off, one thing is certain for manufacturers: access to meaningful and actionable data will play a big role in achieving success this year.

By Leading2Lean January 24, 2017

As 2017 kicks off, one thing is certain for manufacturers: access to meaningful and actionable data will play a big role in achieving success this year. In 2017 the migration to cloud technology, big data, the Internet of Things, and accomplishing more with the same or fewer workers are sure to shape strategies and actions.

The following are the first of four manufacturing technology predictions for 2017 and how they each relate to the actionable data needed to drive improvement.

1. Increased rate of migration to the cloud. As more blue chip manufacturers gain efficiencies through migrating their operations to the cloud, manufacturers of all sizes will need to follow suit to compete. In 2017 cloud-based systems will become the standard.

Cloud technology allows manufacturers to connect systems from different machines and software operating platforms. Putting all information in the cloud, as opposed to on paper or in dedicated software systems, allows real-time access to anyone in the organization from the plant’s executives and managers to quality-assurance line workers and operators. Next year, more factories will have informed staff who can make more informed decisions and ultimately drive more improvement in operations.

For manufacturing IT departments who can’t stop their day-to-day duties to solely focus on being the best software developers in the industry, they’ll find it far easier to move manufacturing systems to the cloud instead of creating their own.

Look for companies who follow this trend to reap the benefits of increased performance and longevity in the marketplace.

2. More meaningful data. In the past years, companies have been focused on acquiring more data-a big data and IoT trend-by documenting plant information or by connecting machines to databases. Now that many companies have accomplished gathering data, those organizations are trying to figure out what to do with the information. While big data is the upside of the IoT, plants don’t need more data, but the right data. Just connecting machines won’t do a lot for supervisors and analysts. Today, most IoT systems begin to fail when managers look at data and, for the overwhelming quantity, can’t interpret or do anything with it. So the answer to big data won’t be more data; it will be more actionable data.

Companies will be more focused in 2017 on getting the right data presented in the right way.

Companies will fuse human intelligence-information that can’t be collected from machines-with that sea of data to provide a new form of clarity. They will connect systems from both machines and people with the resulting output being more meaningful than just a series of metrics. Methods of manually collecting, summarizing, and analyzing data will become antiquated.

3. Creating the Internet of People. Companies have been pushing to connect machines to data, but 2017 will see the connecting of people to data and vice versa, creating the Internet of People (IoP).

In 2017 companies will start integrating people into their systems whether they track employees through mobile technology or cloud technology. Also, some companies will put RFID in the employee access cards so they can track employees and know what they are doing at all times in the plant. Production managers and staff will be able to check the production line and know what people are working on and monitor the team’s output.

What’s more important is getting the data to all employees. Accessibility of all data-historical data, equipment documentation, procedures, operator training, and human-input data-for a broader group within a plant will allow people to view the information, analyze it, and better resolve issues.

Accessing the truth about machines and employees- with every person being able to see data on the floor, not just managers and supervisors-will enhance the team’s ability to identify and solve problems, which saves money, increases productions, and provides competitive advantage.

With the increase in mobile capabilities, managers who are on business trips or home on the weekends will have immediate access to a plant floor’s real-time information and be able to better leverage their time. Employees will be empowered to create solutions when something goes wrong as opposed to talking about it at the next day’s review meeting.

4. Increase productivity with fewer people. Manufacturing plants will be able to do more with fewer people. Based on a Manufacturing Institute projection that some two million manufacturing jobs in the U.S. will likely remain vacant for another decade, plants will be forced to do more with less. This was a surprising statistic for many, but based on concerns about the retiring workforce and efforts in attracting qualified applicants, it shouldn’t be.

Through the use of cloud technology, identifying the most meaningful data, and connecting people to data, many companies will accomplish more with fewer people. One company that is on the forefront of implementing this technology reports that they are able to analyze reports in 20 minutes compared to taking a week.

If last year brought a hint of what’s to come, and if forecasting is accurate, more manufacturers of all sizes will effectively adapt to these trends in order to remain competitive across the industry landscape. 

-Leading2Lean is a Nevada-based manufacturing technology solution provider. Leading2Lean is a CFE Media content partner.

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