As we near the end of 2018, all eyes are already focused on 2019 and the new breakthroughs and trends that are sure to come with the new year. The past several years have proven exciting for the manufacturing sector — both headwinds and tailwinds have made it one of the more volatile industries within the world economy.
As the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and other innovations further usher in Industry 4.0, bold new trends are beginning to take shape. Let’s take a quick peek into what industry leaders and analysts are predicting for 2019 within the manufacturing sector:
1. Shrinking scale — Some industry figures estimate that as many as 15 million new jobs focused on robotics will emerge in the next decade! More than just ensuring the place of robotics in the future of manufacturing, this also means rapid advancements in robotics technologies. The next step is smaller robots, capable of more intricate tasks. Manufacturers are already exploring swarm robots and robots that can teach themselves. Now, the focus is on scaling these helpers down so they can do what human workers can’t — or at least aid them.
2. Proactive maintenance — With the rise of the IIoT comes massive potential for data cultivation. And with more data comes more insight. The first and easiest step in harnessing data is moving from a reactive maintenance approach to a proactive one. Going on the offensive for maintenance means cutting costs, improving reliability, and drastically improving general operations. Proactive maintenance is set to be a crown jewel of 2019’s manufacturing focus.
3. IIoT security — 2019 will be the year blockchain goes from being a buzzword to a standard. As IIoT usage rises, so do concerns about the security of connected hardware and data streams. Blockchain may hold the answer to securing these channels, alongside better network protection standards. Having a way to protect connected devices from malicious access attempts and redundant systems for ensuring data reliability are prime focuses of early IIoT adopters.
4. Augmented reality — Augmented reality (AR) isn’t going away anytime soon and is one of the areas rife for exploration in the new manufacturing tech scene. Having immersive repair instructions, training materials, support enhancements, and more available through AR will open new doors for the way we repair and maintain equipment. And, unlike virtual reality (VR), AR spans a variety of on-the-floor applications that make it more practical for factories seeking to better enable their workers.
5. 3D printing — That’s right, it’s take-two for 3D printing, a technology that has already come and gone from the manufacturing space once before. Renewed interest in this area comes from a push for more additive manufacturing and techniques like sintering, which have enabled more practical industrial 3D printing applications. Will 3D printing stick around in 2019? Industry experts seem to think so — if it can be applied at-scale and for a practical cost.
These trends are necessary, experimental, threatening, and transitory — categories important to the future development of the manufacturing sector. We’ll know soon enough which trends pan out, which fall flat, and which lay the groundwork for even bigger advancements.