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Top 5 Digital Transformation Trends in Manufacturing

Top 5 Digital Transformation Trends in Manufacturing
Alexandra Zamolo
Alexandra Zamolo, Head of Content Marketing
5 min read

If you thought your digital workplace was at the peak of innovation, 2020 will deliver plenty more surprises and digital transformation trends. 

As 2020 gets into full swing, the global manufacturing industry is going through an enormous transformation. Industry 4.0 continues to disrupt and improve manufacturing as companies adopt more advanced technology to automate manual processes. As a result, the human element of the manufacturing workforce is on the verge of its own evolution...

It's a very exciting time for the manufacturing industry indeed. Explore these top five digital transformation trends that will shake things up in 2020. 

1. Robots, Robots, and More Robots

The presence of robots on the factory floor is growing at lightning speed thanks to their declining cost and their increasing capabilities. According to the International Federation of Robotics’ most recent statistics, China has the lowest robot density at just under 100 robots for every 10,000 manufacturing workers. But that’s quickly changing. China bought 133,000 robotic units in 2018 alone while the United States purchased just 38,000.

There's a record number of cobots that have joined the manufacturing workforce now. Cobots are robots that cooperate and collaborate with humans on the manufacturing floor. They don't replace humans — they work with them. 

Recent improvements in sensor technology have allowed manufacturing robots to break free from behind their safety exclusion zones and work alongside human operators. Modern cobots can actually sense the presence of humans or obstacles in their path and can change course to avoid them. 

2. Extreme Operational Efficiency 

In 2020, predictive maintenance will reach new heights. 

One of the most costly events that can happen to a manufacturing facility is downtime. 

Downtime actually costs companies about $260,000 for every hour that a machine is not in operation.

In the past, manufacturers would schedule routine maintenance on equipment, but even this planned downtime halted production and cost money.

Now, machines have internal sensors that send messages to notify workers that maintenance is needed. With a real-time alert and response system, the technology of predictive maintenance will catch mechanical failures before they happen.

Another advancement in operational efficiency for manufacturers in 2020 is the uptick in circular manufacturing

Circular manufacturing, also called lean manufacturing, includes:

3. Machine Learning & AI

Artificial intelligence alone has paved the way for a new era of production. Machine learning creates movement-based algorithms for rapid, repetitive tasks capable of greater, faster product output. And it doesn’t stop there. 

From robots piecing together components on the assembly line to machines that scan parts for defects, technology has come a long way from rudimentary programming concepts. Today’s robots have Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities, meaning they’re learning right alongside your teams.

Strides in programming abilities translate into more accessible user experiences with advanced technology, allowing you internal control and review of data.

Incorporating machine learning into your business even reduces the need for outsourcing, since bots can complete many tasks more efficiently than human workers can.

4. Next Gen Manufacturing Employees

Many traditional manufacturing jobs, like assembly line work, are being phased out with operational technology taking over much of the repetitive work. Companies are automating operations to speed up production as supply chain demand increases. 

But this doesn’t mean that jobs will disappear as many initially thought. In fact, humans will still be at the heart of the manufacturing industry. 

The next generation of manufacturing jobs will require skills for jobs like:

With the mass exodus of baby boomers retiring from the workforce, manufacturing’s most valuable assets are its remaining employees. They are a vital resource keeping the manufacturing industry going right now. But as the scope of their jobs shift away from traditional hands-on manufacturing, these workers will need to develop new skills.

5. Employee Tech 

New android interface

In 2020, manufacturing companies will finally begin to bring their employee tech up to par with Industry 4.0 for a fully integrated, high-speed network. As the labor force rebounds, they will begin to adopt new job roles to work collaboratively in this new world of manufacturing.

In order to help manufacturing employees navigate this new high tech, collaborative environment, companies will begin to heavily invest in tech to improve the employee experience

Improving the employee experience starts with leveraging technology to improve internal communications and facilitate the flow of information. 

Communications tech in manufacturing will help optimize the employee experience in several ways.

In a smart factory environment, employees will need the ability to communicate digitally with one another and the machines they’re managing. 

90% of manufacturing executives recognize the importance of employee tech, but only 38% are buying into it. 

In 2020, manufacturing companies will shift away from traditional communication methods and increase adoption of digital, mobile-friendly tools for their staff. This cloud-based technology will integrate humans into the IoT, giving them the ability to communicate with their digital counterparts, like automation tools, cobots (collaborative robots,) and AI. 

Not only will employee tech help humans in their new space in the manufacturing environment, it will prove to be a powerful tool in rebuilding the workforce.

Download the white paper to read the full report on manufacturing industry trends for 2020.