Are you prepared for the future of manufacturing?
To avoid falling behind, manufacturers need to familiarize themselves with automation trends such as cybersecurity, analytics, MES/ERP integration and robotics.
- Learn about new cybersecurity concerns that emerge when connecting manufacturing systems such as SCADA to enterprise IT networks.
- Learn how data analytics can help operators to identify production bottlenecks and optimize resource allocation.
- Learn how robotics technologies can help navigate the labor shortage.
- To stay competitive, operators must understand the current automation trends in the industry.
- Cybersecurity, analytics, MES/ERP integration and robotics are among the key trends shaping the industry’s future.
- These technologies can help reduce downtime, more effectively coordinate production supply with customer demand, and combat labor shortages.
Manufacturing’s rapid transformation through automation is no longer surprising, but the speed with which owners and operators need to move to adopt the latest technologies to avoid falling behind can be overwhelming. The need for increased efficiency, improved quality control and enhanced product and worker safety drives the adoption of automation technologies.
To stay competitive, operators must understand current automation trends, why they matter and how they can be leveraged through technology to allow them to thrive in the ever-changing manufacturing environment.
Implementing cybersecurity protection
Cybersecurity will only increase in importance as hackers and bad actors develop more sophisticated methods. With the increasing frequency and complexity of cyber threats, plant operators are realizing the importance of protecting their facilities and ensuring the integrity of their products. The consequences of a cybersecurity breach can be devastating, leading to facility shutdowns, contaminated products and reputational damage. Investing in robust cybersecurity measures is essential for safeguarding critical operations and maintaining consumer trust.
The rise of automation and connectivity in food processing plants, for example, has increased their vulnerability to cyber-attacks. Manufacturing systems, including industrial control systems (ICS) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, are now interconnected with information technology (IT) networks, making them potential targets for hackers. Cybersecurity technologies are designed to protect these systems from unauthorized access, data breaches and operational disruptions. Implementing firewalls, intrusion detection systems, network segmentation and thorough employee training on cybersecurity best practices can help mitigate cyber risks.
Using advanced analytics
Harnessing data through advanced analytics gives manufacturers real-time visibility into their plant floor operations. With this rich data, operators can make smarter decisions to benefit production processes and improve overall efficiency. Data analytics will also provide a repository of information for long-term strategic decision-making, helping manufacturers identify problems before they lead to shutdowns, optimize their plant flow and enhance productivity.
The availability of data from various sources, such as sensors, devices and other integrated equipment provides valuable insights into production performance, quality control and supply chain management.
Analyzing this data allows plant operators to identify bottlenecks and optimize resource allocation. It can also save money by reducing waste. Predictive analytics can help anticipate equipment failures, which helps unplanned downtime through timely maintenance.
To effectively leverage, manufacturers need to invest in a solid data infrastructure, including data collection systems, storage and analysis tools. They should establish a data-driven culture and train their teams to interpret and utilize analytics insights. Embracing data analytics helps manufacturers optimize their operations and quickly respond to market demands.
Integrating manufacturing execution systems (MES) with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is gaining traction in the manufacturing world. This integration allows for seamless connectivity between a business or IT network and an operational technology (OT) network. By integrating these systems, you gain valuable insights into supply chain issues, optimize inventory management and align production with customer demand. MES/ERP integration provides helpful analysis that can allow operators to make more informed decisions.
MES focuses on real-time control and monitoring of plant floor activities, such as recipe management, production scheduling and quality control. On the other hand, ERP systems manage business processes, including finance, procurement and customer relationship management. Integrating MES with ERP enables data exchange between these systems, eliminating manual data entry, reducing errors and ensuring data consistency.
With MES/ERP integration, manufacturers can gain end-to-end visibility into their operations. They can track and trace ingredients, monitor production progress, manage inventory levels and optimize resource allocation. This integration also enhances collaboration between different departments.
Implementing robotics to combat workforce shortages
The shortage of skilled labor is a significant challenge across numerous industries. As more and more retirement-age workers leave their manufacturing positions, the knowledge gap poses many challenges for plant owners and operators. The potential adverse effects of this labor transition include increased downtime, incorrectly diagnosed issues, increased time trying to solve problems and a lack of understanding of how everything should operate.
Automation offers a solution to the labor problem by automating repetitive and physically demanding tasks, allowing workers to focus on more complex, skilled activities. Robotic systems are being adopted to handle tasks such as packaging, palletizing and assembly, reducing reliance on manual labor and increasing operational efficiency.
Collaborative robots, or cobots, are designed to work alongside humans, enhancing productivity and safety. These robots can handle tasks that require precision and consistency, such as ingredient mixing and quality inspection.
By integrating cobots into production lines, plant operators can improve throughput, reduce errors and even enhance worker safety. It also may be necessary sooner rather than later for manufacturers that want to remain competitive amid the labor shortage crisis.
Automation also addresses the challenge of ensuring consistent product quality. By implementing automated quality control systems, manufacturers can minimize variations, detect defects and improve overall product consistency. Automated inspection systems use machine vision and AI algorithms to analyze product attributes such as color, shape and size, which helps ensure adherence to stringent quality standards.
Automation will continue to revolutionize the industry, offering immense opportunities for improved efficiency, quality control and operational performance. Cybersecurity, analytics, MES/ERP integration and robotics implementation are among the key trends shaping the industry’s future.
A systems integrator can help companies see the potential in data and devices and implement these technologies. Operators that embrace these technologies will gain a competitive edge, enhance their product offerings and have an easier time meeting evolving consumer demands.
Raymond Berning, automation manager, Interstates. Interstates is a CFE Media and Technology content partner. Edited by David Miller, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, email@example.com.
Keywords: Cybersecurity, Analytics
Which of the above-mentioned automation technologies could be applied in your facility?