Updated: Mar 10, 2021
As 2021 begins, technology is poised to play an even bigger role in industrial operations. From assembly automation to robotic trends, the industrial automation market is expected to grow to a $12.7 billion industry by 2023.
Manufacturing automation is changing the landscape for large-scale enterprises and service-level manufacturers. Manufacturers adopting automation are seeing lower production costs, less waste, scrap, and rework, and more efficient operations.
Here are some of the top automation trends emerging in the year ahead.
Focus on Agile Manufacturing
One thing we learned during the pandemic is the need to be agile to adapt more quickly to changing requirements. Flexible production on the shop floor requires end-to-end management of the production pathway. Robotics, industrial automation, and business process automation will be essential tools in remaining agile and competitive.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT isn’t a new concept but it’s becoming more common. The potential to bring disparate pieces of equipment together for control and monitoring enhances operations and efficiency. Real-time data provides better oversight and more seamless operations.
Sensors and IoT controls are becoming standard practice in quality control to manage complex builds, such as Additive Manufacturing, and in other industrial operations. Working together, IoT tools are catching and preventing nonconformances earlier. AI tools such as predictive maintenance are reducing costly repairs and downtime.
Machine vision will grow in importance in 2021. Enabling machines with efficient, accurate, and high-performing visioning capabilities offer a variety of results. Robots and other machines will be able to identify objects and sort materials better. For example, robots can recognize the shape of parts in a bin and know the proper position and orientation.
Along with machine vision, advances in gripping enabled robots to handle different shapes and sizes, including things they haven’t seen before. This opens up robotics applications in new areas, such as food processing, agriculture, or mobile manipulation in warehouses.
Besides robotics, we’re also seeing increased attention being paid to Collaborative Robots, or cobots, designed to work alongside human workers. As more affordable options have become available, cobots are being adopted in operations that don’t want to or don’t need to invest in more expensive robotic solutions.
Smaller, lighter, and less expensive cobots are one of the fastest-growing automation trends.
Software computer models are simulating processes before real-life testing to anticipate and solve problems that arise. Not only are these simulations being used in product design, but they are also being applied to processes and production pathways.