Introducing new technology can be disruptive: upending the status quo is always challenging for businesses and their employees. For manufacturers, though, the idea of the smart factory of the future is quickly becoming a reality, and even those hesitant to embrace these advancements are finding it hard to ignore. As we advance steadily toward Industry 4.0, companies should prepare to redefine how they approach materials handling.
The introduction of new technology can be disruptive: change is challenging for businesses and their employees. But the smart factory of the future is quickly becoming a reality, and even those hesitant to embrace these advancements are finding it hard to ignore. We’re on the cusp of Industry 4.0 – a trend that is redefining how companies approach materials handling.
After a banner year in 2015—with over 17.5 million vehicles sold in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal—the automotive industry is poised to continue this pattern of growth through 2016 and beyond. That doesn’t mean the industry is without challenges, though. Automakers are beginning to feel the effects of an increasingly competitive market as an influx of tech companies enter the automotive game, embracing big data to identify and solve problems, and touting a “fail fast” mentality that enables the quick production of innovative new products.
Machines on the plant floor will soon actively identify problems, determine a course of action, execute, and measure those results—all without human interaction. It's not the Jetsons—it's the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and it's already beginning to reshape manufacturing. Though many manufacturers are just starting to explore the implications of IIoT, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been generating buzz for years and already represents a booming market opportunity.
As we approach the new year, developments in the robotics industry are promising. In 2015, we saw robots emerge in manufacturing and distribution facilities worldwide, as automated vehicles have proven to be a safer and more efficient, decreasing transportation time for parts-to-line by more than 50% in some cases. This massive shift in robotics has been made possible due largely to impressive new visual capabilities. Vehicles like tow tractors and pallet trucks are equipped with Seegrid Vision, allowing them to operate entirely autonomously. This frees up human workers to focus on higher-level tasks, creating a dynamic workplace where humans and robots collaborate together.
In a dynamic production environment, as companies continue to experience an increase in manufacturing complexities, there is typically an increase in labor resources as well. For operations managers, it becomes a balancing act to manage the production process and have resources to remain productive.
In part one of the two part series of this blog, we cover forklift dangers being inherently dangerous vehicles, as approximately every three days, someone in the U.S. is killed in a forklift related accident. Even with safety regulations for the workplace, there is reason for companies to seek forklift-free environments. Forklift free requires using alternative solutions to move product from point A to point B without having forklift vehicles for transport.