New Technology Appearing on Manufacturing Shop Floors
Dark, dirty, and dangerous. These adjectives are becoming less indicative of what manufacturing consists of today. The manufacturing industry is evolving into a forward thinking and progressive sector that emphasizes STEM based applications. As this industry continues to evolve to fit 21st century advancements, the use of technology on shop floors is becoming crucial to success in manufacturing. Millennials are playing a big part in this transformation. Their preference of having technology in most aspects of life, whether it be 3D printing, virtual prints, or other recent advancements, is causing shops all across America to incorporate technology on their shop floor. The pursuit is on to incorporate dynamic and revolutionary technologies into everyday operations.
One of the big areas in which shops are incorporating technology is in the wearables market. Smart glasses and smart watches, which are forms of wearables, could drastically increase the efficiency of workers. Smart glasses, such as Google Glass, provide the ability to cut out down time by freeing up operator’s hands and making relevant information by acting on voice commands and eye movement tracking. These glasses allow workers on the floor to view live data to improve the quality of their work.
Since the creation of the iPad in 2010, tablets have worked their way on to shop floors and in some cases become assets for machinists. Tablets, along with other mobile devices like smart phones, allow machinists to carry pertinent information with them wherever they go. The “swipe” feature allows for workers to access multiple instruction pages of a document. The tablets’ camera allows for the ability to capture images. When troubleshooting equipment malfunctions, images can be captured and sent directly to those employees who may have solutions. This diminishes downtime and increases production. Once the error is corrected, these images can be saved for future use in similar situations. Because of the increased popularity of tablets, many companies are applying a BYOD (bring your own device) culture. This is effective because it reduces the learning curve allowing users the ability to navigate their own devices. Most importantly, mobile devices allow for real-time access to diagnostics, notifications, dashboards, and other cloud apps. These features, along with mobility, solidify mobile devices as a useful piece of technology on the manufacturing shop floor.
Just last week, the PMPA (Precision Machine Products Association) held their annual three day conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This conference brings together companies from around the nation into one central location to discuss different advancements in the industry. The advancement in manufacturing technology from the previous year was noticed. One of the areas of advancement was in the access to real time data. Real time tracking and data allows machinists and managers to see up-to-date statistics, such as parts per hour, cycle time data, and machinists’ efficiency, to ensure that production stays at its optimal level. Also on display was a new hybrid machine presented by DMG MORI. This innovative machine combines both additive and subtractive manufacturing in one machine allowing totally new applications and geometries. Along with these two improvements, a multitude of machining programs and attachments were on display that all increased machining efficiency. The manufacturing industry continues to evolve in the area of technology and the PMPA conference was a prime example of this.
Highlighting a few of the new technologies being implemented on the shop floor does not do justice to the continually evolving market for technology in manufacturing. Every day state-of-the-art solutions are being created to increase efficiency and reduce downtime. Whether it be wearables, tablets, or specific software programs, technology is revolutionizing manufacturing operations.
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