The factory of the future!!!

OK, it sounds like a headline out of an old World’s Fair newsreel, but I am still constantly fascinated about what the future will bring to the manufacturing shop floor. While teleporting parts and flying forklifts are still a long way from reality, technical advances are making huge changes in the manufacturing arena.

A recent article on Thomasnet.com explored some of the innovations in the field. As a data, platform and technology company, Thomas is curious about — and highly invested in — what the future holds. Aren’t you?

Here are some highlights.

Integrated Sensors: Densely placed, cloud-connected sensors will monitor and report on all aspects of a plant, from environmental and safety factors, to individual machines, to inventory, to entire production line systems. This is big data in action, with numbers being perpetually crunched by ever-increasing computer power.

Digital Twins: Companies will create digital clones of physical systems and processes, and use these simulations to evaluate all aspects of operations including maintenance needs, inventory and more.

Virtual Reality: This technology we associate with gaming can be serious business. Imagine how useful it can be in offering comprehensive training and education, in both STEM learning and industrial training. Companies will administer hands-on training that’s safe, accurate and highly informative.

Augmented Reality: AR devices, operated hands-free and controlled by voice, will transform equipment maintenance and monitoring. This technology could enable technicians to observe, troubleshoot, and digitally record machine data hands-free, which will increase efficiency and improve safety.

Blockchain: We associate blockchain with cryptocurrency, but it’s really just a highly integrated, highly secure, and extremely transparent method of tracking digital information. Here’s how they define it at Investopedia: “At its most basic level, blockchain is literally just a chain of blocks, but not in the traditional sense of those words. When we say the words “block” and “chain” in this context, we are actually talking about digital information (the “block”) stored in a public database (the “chain”).” Here’s another explanation, from Blockgeeks.com: “A blockchain is, in the simplest of terms, a time-stamped series of immutable record of data that is managed by cluster of computers not owned by any single entity. Each of these blocks of data (i.e. block) are secured and bound to each other using cryptographic principles (i.e. chain).” This technology can radically transform so many aspects of manufacturing.

Read the article for more topics, such as E-procurement, the digital supply network, and robots and co-bots. And then speculate on how these emerging technologies might transform your factory floor, and marvel at the fact that, just as these innovations were hardly dreamed of a couple of decades ago, there are innovations yet to be revealed which we can hardly imagine.