The world of manufacturing is always changing. It seems that new technologies are always arising to increase productivity, lower costs and add new functionality. However, sometimes the changes are so big, they are called a revolution. One of those times is on the horizon. Manufacturing automation is now moving to the Fourth Revolution.
The first Industrial Revolution started the world of manufacturing. This is when machines were created to produce everything from cotton to weaving textiles. Life in the manufacturing world suddenly became much easier. Next came the second Industrial Revolution and it found manufacturers like Henry Ford using mass production techniques to bring goods to the public quickly and inexpensively.
The third wave of manufacturing brought data onto the scene. Availability of data allowed manufacturing automation to run production. Information technology, computerized systems, and other advances lessened the human touch on the assembly line while simultaneously producing goods and services quickly and cheaply.
Now we are entering the fourth dimension, or phase, of manufacturing existence. Not to get too Twilight-Zone with you, but the fourth phase of manufacturing harnesses the amazing use of cyber-physical systems to bring goods to customers with more precision and accuracy than ever before.
Manufacturing Automation in a Customer-Centric Fashion
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the only way to make goods for sale was to make them by hand. Cobblers got to know the bunions, bumps, and arches of the feet of their customers; shoes were hand tooled. After the Industrial Revolution, shoes were mass-produced. They fit most feet, and that was acceptable.
Today’s cyber-physical systems marry technology back to personalization to enhance the customer experience. With new advances in computer technology such as 3D printing and cloud computing, it’s not unrealistic to imagine that the factories of tomorrow will receive inputs from shoe stores on main street and custom-mill shoes to fit your feet. They’re mass produced forms customized to fit.
Shoes are a good example, because no two feet are the same. But such marriage of manufacturing automation to customer needs can occur in business-to-business sectors too. Imagine a world in which plastic is formed into bumpers for cars not based on mass orders (“Give us 50 bumpers by Friday”) but custom orders (“We need 6 for sports cars, 13 for SUVs, and 31 for sedans.”)
Predictive Analytics, the Wave of the Future
We’re not quite at the point in which custom orders can be made so precisely. Although manufacturers may soon have the technology to custom-produce shoes, clothes, automobile bumpers, or lenses for microscopes, it’s much more common to produce mass runs of goods than custom runs.
Enter predictive analytics, the wave of the future for manufacturers. With predictive analytics, computer systems learn from the inputs they receive. They can scan orders, for example, and find patterns to predict future ordering trends. Manufacturers can then use data to produce a close match between supply and demand.
Manufacturing Automation Is on the Verge of Great Changes
In the 1980s, computers changed the face of manufacturing from mass production into technology-based production. The manufacturing automation systems of today are slowly moving manufacturers into the world of artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and custom orders.
Some may say we have gone full circle, or maybe we are just moving ahead. No matter how you look at it, it’s a new and exciting time for manufacturers. It’s a perfect time for manufacturers to consider upgrading to new advanced manufacturing automation. The more data you can gather, the further your business can grow.
Scanco has expanded to offer manufacturing automation solutions for Sage 100 and Sage 500. Combined with our respected warehouse automation systems, your entire operations are ready to move to the next dimension. Contact us for a free consultation about automating your warehouse and manufacturing operations.