Why Kiwi manufacturers should watch these three technologies

Friday, 21 Apr, 2017   /   Soltius

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It’s no secret that the manufacturing sector in many developed countries has taken significant blows over the last 20 to 30 years. Rising wage costs have meant the manufacture of commoditised products is simply not viable in many economies today. Whilst the production of high-end, specialised items may continue to be profitable today in developed countries like New Zealand, in order to stay competitive into the future manufacturers will need to adapt.

Right now, three emerging concepts which manufacturers should have on the radar include the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR) and Robotics. These technologies hold promise for helping Kiwi manufacturers keep up and even get ahead of the global game.

The notion of ‘digital disruption’ has gained currency because small, nimble operators (who can put a business together using nothing but a credit card, internet connection and a computer – and go on to specify manufacturing in China or India) have the power to outmanoeuvre established players.

It’s happened to the taxi industry globally; now, the automotive industry in the USA has seen an upstart exceed the market value of some of the world’s most established brands – Tesla is now worth more than Ford or GM.

Automotive manufacturing may have left New Zealand decades ago, but this sort of potential disruption faces every manufacturer today.

  1. The Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT goes beyond common factory-floor automation systems like SCADA, PLCs and DCS systems and provides the ability to take fine-grained control of every aspect of the supply chain – from raw material, through to finished goods.

With low-cost sensors and the increasing availability of low-power networks, the possibility of connecting ‘everything’ (and not just the stuff under the factory roof) is a practical reality today. That translates to unprecedented precision and control: driving out cost across the supply chain, rather than just across the shop floor, means a lower cost to produce.

It also means determining precise quantities – no overs or unders – as consulting firm PwC makes clear. The use cases are myriad, with no shortage of examples. The data gathered by sensors also provides a wealth of raw material for analysis and potentially valuable insights to improve your operations.

  1. Augmented Reality (AR)

Being shown how to do something is generally a far faster route to success than trying to explain it. That’s what AR promises for manufacturers. Whether it is in the design phase of new products, or manufacture and assembly, AR offers the ability for a ‘supervisor’ to work alongside technicians, providing guidance every step of the way. What could be more complex than assembling a Lockheed F35 fighter jet? Probably not much – check out how AR is helping accelerate that process thanks to a headset which delivers constant virtual assistance.

Again, there are plenty of use cases; yours might be like any of them, or entirely unique.

  1. Robotics

Robotics needs little introduction to Kiwi manufacturers, but accelerated investment in newer concepts such as ‘cobots’ (collaborative robots) which work alongside people, and new opportunities to mine data, coupled with the IoT, will drive efficiency and better ways of getting the job done. With the cost of robotics coming down rapidly and the capabilities growing, there are more opportunities for them to be placed into the production line than ever before. Again, there is a wealth of information out there on why robots are set to transform more manufacturing than ever before.

By embracing next-gen technology, particularly that which drives out inefficiency, Kiwi manufacturing can keep itself in the game. Check out our Manufacturing expertise and talk to us about how we can apply technology to optimise your environment.

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