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QAD 2019 Predictions: Manufacturing - Industry 4.0 is Underway

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2019.  Read them in this 11th annual series exclusive.

Contributed by Glenn Graney, Marketing Manager, Industrial and High Tech Markets, QAD

Manufacturing - Industry 4.0 is Underway

I believe that the ongoing digital transformation of manufacturing and of the global economy is the biggest trend for 2019. We will see the continued adoption of a wide range of exciting new technologies across the vertical landscape, from automotive to food and beverage to life sciences. The way we manufacture products and manage our supply chain continues to evolve and 2019 will put a premium on agility and the ability to react quickly to the changes brought by digital transformation, including the ability to quickly deploy new technologies.

The real change for much of manufacturing will be the act of getting off the sidelines. Much of the hype around Industry 4.0, IoT, Machine Learning and other technologies is at the "macro" level. It is nearly impossible to have an actionable corporate-wide Machine Learning strategy. The adoption of any of these technologies will take place through pilots and collaborative experiments between manufacturers and their application suppliers. The technology is maturing in both capability and availability allowing for experimentation at manageable cost and with minimal disruption. Not all of the experimentation will provide fantastic results, but they will lay the foundation for greater adoption in subsequent years.

Over the next year, I believe the most notable changes in manufacturing will include rapid adoption of the following:

Machine Learning: Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence in which systems can analyze large volumes of data and make predictions based on correlation and causation without being explicitly programmed. It has been a major technology breakthrough and has been applied across multiple functional areas in organizations including supply chain. A common application of machine learning is to predict machine failure based upon sensor data such as vibration, operating temperature, noise levels or fluid pressure. This improves plant utilization and reduces costly supply chain disruptions. The case for adopting machine learning techniques is logical! It is faster. It is cheaper. It is more accurate. It relies less upon human input while enabling higher quality output. The potential adoption of Machine Learning is enabled by the amount of legacy data that most manufacturers have already accumulated.  Now is the time for a new set of tools to drill into that data repository and deliver a new set of insights.

IoT: IoT technologies are on the forefront of impacting the manufacturing world, especially the food-manufacturing world. IoT is being explored in the areas of smart labeling and tracking & tracing and where RFID can be used to track food movement, locations, temperatures and chemical properties. Fresh food supply chains are becoming shorter and faster in a bid to retain product life. Innovations now abound, including intelligent packaging with biosensors indicating freshness. The aim is to reduce waste and provide usable data.

Food manufacturing will see a huge technology innovation over the next five to 10 years as the market continues to change and pressures on supply chains and logistics continue to grow. Manufacturers will have to evolve for survival.

Currently, the major IoT investments have been in tracking and tracing food through the manufacturing process. Government regulations have led this initiative with stricter rules and laws. The industry is also getting pressure from consumers who want to know the origin of the products they consume as well as the path they took to get to their door. Technologies like smart labels, which provide a wealth of product-related information to those who by them, are gaining in popularity.

Agile and Cloud Technology:  Agile is no longer just a buzzword. Agile practices are being adopted by all kinds of organizations and scaled to enterprises of every size. Organizations and teams will concentrate on delivering their existing products with better quality, while adding needed features to keep them competitive. When it comes to ERP systems, ensuring that a solution is agile enough to handle disruptive challenges - such as new technologies, changes in customer demand, regulations and compliance - is critical. Many organizations work tirelessly to customize their solution to fit the challenges of today. This is good, but what about five, 10 or 20 years from now? Agile will continue to be critical in 2019.

Connected Supply Chain: Improved connectivity with suppliers is a game-changer for ensuring data integrity across the entire supply network to enhance supply chain responsiveness and real-time supplier collaboration. Digital connections with suppliers improve communication, collaboration and decision-making. As a result of transforming supplier collaboration strategies, manufacturers can more quickly connect with suppliers, achieve a single source of supply truth from data analytics and boost global supply chain performance.

Digital Twins: A "digital twin" is a computerized simulation of a physical asset. It represents historical, current and predictive views of its real-world counterpart. It is highly dependent on a stream of data, often supported by sensors and IoT, and leverages advanced visualization. Digital twins are used for monitoring and registration, as user interface and for simulations. They increase efficiency in the interaction with a physical asset, improve operations and provide support for business-improving simulations. We will see more Digital Twins in 2019 as the concept of digital twins is identified as an important transformer under the Industry 4.0 umbrella -- which is all about how people, interconnected sensors, machines and artificial intelligence can work together more effectively.

Hang on tight for 2019, because here we go!  The game will be won by the quick and the agile. Those that adapt will flourish, while those that cannot or won't react to change, will lag behind.


About the Author

Glenn Graney is QAD's Marketing Manager for the Industrial and High Tech markets. He enjoys comedy and all things funny until he is the subject of the joke. He and his wife live in Wilmington, North Carolina where their grown children intermittently visit and their pets rarely stray.

Published Monday, December 31, 2018 7:26 AM by David Marshall
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