“We’re living in a time that I call a technology renaissance,” says Michael Steep, executive director of the Stanford Digital Cities Program at Stanford University. It’s true. By now, almost everyone has heard of the advanced manufacturing technology called smart manufacturing. And Industry 4.0 refers to a combination of the latest technologies that are leading the current industrial revolution in manufacturing. But how are manufacturing companies using these new technologies? What does this mean for end consumers?
In this blog post, I’ll summarize two digital trends within manufacturing companies that will, in all probability, scale up in 2018.
Trend #1: Using big data and advanced analytics to create value across the value chain
Gartner forecasts that there will be 20.4 billion internet of things (IoT) devices connected by 2020, which is more than double the count in 2017. By using big data and advanced analytics, manufacturers have already begun to predict when machines will need maintenance.
In 2018, more companies will save on costs as they implement industrial IoT devices to collect data, generate predictive analytics, and then perform preventive maintenance and take other actions to anticipate and remediate issues, reducing downtime and costs driven by service level agreements (SLAs).
For example, Siemens wanted to reduce the amount of delayed or lost baggage caused by malfunctioning baggage carts. Analyzing the tracking data from these baggage carts, Siemens was able to perform predictive analytics and preventive maintenance to ensure that losses were minimized, reducing expenses by up to £60,000 per week.
Another example of the benefits of data-driven connectivity comes from a recent collaboration between Honeywell and Mindtree. Together we developed a first-of-its-kind HVAC dealer portal that allows contractors to offer 24/7 remote monitoring services that leverage HVAC data coming from the Honeywell connected thermostats. With this product integration into a community portal, the Honeywell products provide easy access to the data needed to anticipate customer needs, giving contractors with more opportunities to service their customers.
In 2018 and beyond, Gartner predicts that this interconnectivity will scale up for use in consumer applications. In addition to the highly anticipated autonomous automobile, we will benefit from smart home systems and smarter kitchen appliances. Electrolux is introducing the CombiSteam Pro Smart oven that comes with an app you can use to send recipes directly to the oven – and you can use your phone to view what’s cooking. As more and more machines churn out more and more data, companies will be able to predict, prevent and solve problems before they cause any inconvenience for consumers.
Trend #2: Using augmented reality from end to end
Augmented reality is being used from product conception through product delivery and by consumers as well. Here are a few examples of augmented reality in use today.
Microsoft has been on the forefront of mixed-reality technologies with their HoloLens devices. With an application called Trimble Connect for HoloLens, hard hats commonly used on construction sites can be converted so that workers can see digital models overlaying their physical job site – and the data is updated in real time.
Electrolux is another company using these technologies to improve both processes and products. In addition to the smart oven mentioned previously, the company recently announced that it will be rolling out augmented reality in 16 of their factories around the world to enable remote collaboration between field experts and on-site engineers.
On the consumer side, we are also seeing augmented reality in action. The international retailer IKEA, for example, offers the IKEA Place app. This app allows customers to “place” IKEA furniture in their own home and see how the items look and fit before making a purchase decision.
A new era in manufacturing
These new technologies include, of course, robotics. An outstanding example of a company developing these Industry 4.0 technologies can be seen in the recent development by Boston Dynamics of robotic dogs that can open doors by themselves. Another example is CANVAS Technology, an innovative company specializing in autonomous robotics that has developed a self-driving cart for use in industrial environments.
Klaus Schwab, in his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, beautifully summarizes the current manufacturing era as being characterized by a range of new technologies that are not only fusing the physical and digital but also the biological world – even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.
At Mindtree, where I focus on consumer-led businesses, including manufacturing, we have had several recent conversations with C-suite executives, and almost all of them are reimagining their customer journey into a seamless intelligent experience. Manufacturing companies today are using big data, automation, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality to change and improve the connection with us – the end consumer – and we are excited by this too!