Connectivity, Automation, and IIoT Power the Modern Shop Floor

  • Innovation and Technology

Manufacturing starts on the shop floor. It’s where material moves, product is created, ultimately, where the work gets done. Every day, new devices and equipment are providing manufacturers with new opportunities for innovation and connection.

In its four years, the 2017 State of Manufacturing Technology Report surveyed more than 150 manufacturers and reveals how manufacturers are leveraging connectivity with the cloud. More than half of respondents have improved machine integration and 74 percent have improved connectivity with mobile and personal devices. From additive manufacturing (3D printing) to connected sensors and even wearable devices, manufacturers are exploring how the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) enables new ways to drive efficiency in how things get made.

Robotics and Automation

Industrial automation is the natural evolution of manufacturing and technology innovation moving in concert. Manufacturers reported a 25 percent increase in the use of robotics, with three out of every four manufacturers now using robotics in their operations. While robots have had a major role in manufacturing since the 1950s, they continue to expand rapidly into Tier One and mid-sized organizations as prices drop and equipment becomes even easier to program. In addition, 62 percent of manufacturers are planning to undertake more shop floor automation due to the connectivity provided by the cloud. The combination of smarter robots and greater shop floor connectivity leads to higher levels of automation that increase efficiency.

Mobility

The use of mobile phones, laptops, and hand scanners, popular with 90 percent of surveyed manufacturers, remains consistent year-over-year. And we are seeing a consistent sentiment among manufacturers that the cloud’s ability to integrate with personal devices is a benefit to the organization.

More than 30 percent plan or are in the process of deploying consumer tablets in their organization. The use of consumer tech demonstrates manufacturers' desire to increase connectivity to their business cost effectively and wirelessly. The cloud enables this connectivity, with some manufacturers taking it a step further by adding devices like inexpensive scanners or other technology to extend the value of tablets and similar devices.

3D Printing

Additive manufacturing and 3D printers saw an eight percent increase as these incredible devices pass through their own hype cycle and into the mainstream. Still widely used for prototyping, additive equipment over the long term still holds the promise of a direct connection between concept, design, and manufacturing execution. Parts for complex assemblies, even for airframes, are now constructed with additive equipment so it is reasonable to expect adoption to accelerate from this point.

Shop floor connectivity continues to grow in importance, and cloud makes this easier. Leading manufacturers are taking advantage of cloud to increase connectivity from a wide variety of devices for greater visibility and control. As worker mobility increases and data is more readily available, manufacturers will reap the benefits with new levels of efficiency and productivity.

For more insights, read the full report. Download the 2017 State of Manufacturing Technology Report

About the Author

Dave Morfas, Director of Product Marketing, Plex Systems

Dave Morfas has worked in the high-tech industry for more than 20 years with customers in Europe, Asia Pac, Latin America and North America in a variety of group management, product marketing, and product management roles. Currently Dave serves as Director of Product Marketing for Plex overseeing strategic product direction, competitive intelligence, and content marketing and creation. Dave has a B.A. from Indiana University, a EET degree from ITT Technical Institute, and a MBA from Webster University.