This year looks like it’s going to be one of the most innovative years for manufacturing technology. Purchasing and supply executives predict that the global manufacturing industry will continue to expand. The ISM projects a 4.1 percent net increase in revenue for 2016, and as we’ve briefly mentioned past blogs, technologies such as predictive data analytics, virtual reality, smart connectivity and 3-D printing will drive this growth and reshape the global economic competition between U.S. and Chinese manufacturers.
Predictive data analytics is the use of statistics for data mining and predictive modeling, and it is the most important advanced manufacturing technology today, according to a study by Deloitte and the Council on Competitiveness. Chinese executives see predictive analytics as the key to competing with U.S. manufacturers.
According to Toolbox.com, predictive analytics is transforming manufacturing in four big ways:
The same virtual reality technology that is used for video games is proving to be useful for manufacturing. By using a virtual model to discuss a project design request, a global manufacturing company can provide an instant size and cost analysis, eliminating delays when providing a quote.
Virtual reality also facilitates mass customization, the ability to deliver customized products to large numbers of customers at production costs that are comparable to that of mass production, explains Beyond PLM. For instance, Thesis Couture uses virtual designs to mass customize high heel shoes. O-ring manufacturer Apple Rubber is another example that uses virtual technology to mass customize o-rings in 8,000 different sizes for a wide range of applications.
Virtual reality and mass customization go hand-in-hand with another technology that is transforming global manufacturing: 3-D printing. By 2014, 11 percent of manufacturing companies had adopted 3-D printing, according to a PwC survey. By 2018, CCS Insight predicts that the global 3-D printing market will more than triple from $1.15 billion to $4.8 billion.
This technology lets manufacturers translate digital designs directly into physical products with minimal time and cost. For instance, a robot arm that would take four weeks and $10,000 to manufacture using traditional methods can be produced with fused deposition modeling, a type of 3-D printing, in 24 hours for just $600, according to Stratasys. An automated turntable that would normally take eight weeks and $50,000 to produce can be made in two weeks for $8,800 with 3-D printing.
3-D printing will play an increasing role in manufacturing competition between the U.S and China, with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology planning to invest $313 million in 3-D printing over the next three years, reports 3Ders.org.
A PwC survey found that 59 percent of manufacturers are already using robots. Improvements in robotic sensory, memory and manual performance have made robots useful for an increasing range of operations, from picking and packaging to testing and inspecting products. The increasing efficiency and falling costs of robots are attracting manufacturing production back to the U.S. from overseas, says Boston Consulting Group. It also predicts that American companies will deploy an additional 1.2 million advanced robots by 2025, increasing the percentage of global manufacturing tasks that are automated from 10 to 25 percent.
The Chinese manufacturing industry also is rapidly replacing workers with robots. The demand for robots in China has quadrupled over the last four years and is expected to account for one third of the world’s robots by 2018, according to the International Federation of Robotics.
How are you seeing technology impacting global manufacturing? Let us know in the comments below!
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