The world has changed dramatically over the past 30 or so years. With the mass influence of computers in all areas of our lives, technology is beginning to have a real impact on the modern world – changing everything from how we communicate to how we watch media and buy groceries.
However, while tech is undoubtedly transforming and enhancing society as a whole, nowhere has its effects been more profoundly felt than in the manufacturing sector.
Here are just a few ways machines are poised and ready to overhaul manufacturing and production in the future.
Industry 4.0, AI and increasing levels of automation
For many years, experts have been predicting “Industry 4.0” – a term coined by the notion that the world is on the verge of the next great Industrial Revolution. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have been advancing at such a rate that the digital world is now converging with the real world, heralding previously unimaginable opportunities.
As AI continues to advance in sophistication and machines become capable of cogent thought processes and innovation, these technologies will come to play an increasingly important and capable role in production.
Technology never stands still, but it is now moving at an almost alarmingly fast rate. As machines increasingly usurp the role of humans (particularly in repetitive and time-consuming tasks), so automation will continue to become more prevalent across all areas of manufacturing.
It could be argued this move to automation has been on the cards for many years. After all, through the last century, robotic workers were commonplace in assembly-line production, teamed with conveyor systems like those supplied by fluentconveyors.com to produce everything from cars to televisions.
However, it is the speed of progression in autonomous intelligence that is perhaps the most surprising. As robots become smarter, they will be able to perform ever-more-complex tasks and are set to have a huge impact on production processes.
The role of the Internet of Things (IoT)
Loosely defined, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept of an internet consisting purely of smart, connected devices each sending, receiving and interpreting data autonomously. While there is nothing particularly new in the idea of the IoT what has changed considerably in recent years is the ‘smartness’ of these connected devices.
Coupled with AI, machines are now capable of gathering, transmitting and deciphering vast swathes of data on a level never before possible. Indeed, the IoT has such potency that is widely described as being the Next Digital Disruption.
To understand the potency of the IoT, it is perhaps best to consider a real-world scenario – let’s take farming as an example (although the IoT can be applied across all industries).
Using even the most basic IoT system, a farmer could insert a smart device into his field to monitor temperature and the growth rate of his crop. If this device was also hooked up to a weather forecasting system, he could accurately predict when his plants might need watering, based on the current and forecast temperature and any predicted rainfall. If a particularly dry spell was incoming, the system would send a signal to the farmer’s autonomous sprinkler system which would subsequently deploy water to the plants.
Additionally, by monitoring the growth rate of his crop (and comparing the data against a national database of expected growth speeds), he could then determine when the plants are nearing optimal levels for harvest – this time, deploying an automated harvesting machine. So, in other words, automation would look after all phases of his crop’s development – with only the most minimal of human intervention.
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Most fascinatingly, while the concepts above might seem like crystal-ball gazing, they are all already available today and are slowly transforming the world around us. While no-one can accurately predict the future, one thing is for sure – automation is going to play a massive role in the production processes of tomorrow.