This is a really exciting time to be in Manufacturing! Manufacturing Engineers’ toolboxes are growing a day with new possibilities and technologies for greater capability and efficiency. The Fourth technological revolution, or what some are calling Industry 4.0, is bringing all types of tools in touch on all processes in our industrial world. It won’t to be that only very large companies could cash in of the newest technologies thanks to cost, limited availability, and therefore the need for continuous development as they were implemented. Today, the suppliers of those complex technologies have more robust, user-friendly solutions at costs that allow even small to medium-size enterprises to use. The subsequent step in embracing this revolution is ensuring that Manufacturing Engineers are exposed to and educated on what's possible.

At Parker Hannifin, we are re-architecting our organizations for Information Technology and Operations Technology to require full advantage of those latest opportunities.

“With new tools and technologies repeatedly becoming available, how could anyone not become even more enamored with this profession?"

With the complexity of operations, taking Lean to the subsequent level requires taking advantage of analytics and processors to crunch the info and present the meaningful minority to the team. It is and has always been, extremely valuable to possess the operations personnel comb through, chart, and analyze the assembly data to stay quality and productivity high. The increasing amount of knowledge available has surpassed the power for completely manual efforts. It’s more efficient to possess computers to analyze the info and point to the critical areas where operations should review and take action. Fixing that process and linkage to action properly is now more important than ever to stay that tight-knit connection.

So what tools your toolbox should be comprised of? 

Robotics: Low unemployment today has generated a situation of not having enough certified applicants to fill job openings. Robotic automation, both collaborative and traditional industrial, provides a chance to mitigate this issue. More and more, employees are seeing this as less of a threat and more of a chance to avoid the roles they are doing not like with the power to try to more interesting and sophisticated work. Implementing Lean practices and hosting Kaizen events before implementation helps avoid automating bad processes. Benefits of greater efficiency, consistency, quick return on investment and therefore the inherent data available for DDM make automation a must-do.

Vision Systems: Whether adding sight to robots or used for visual inspection or sorting, the vision has come an extended way within the past few years. Updates and new options for high-resolution 2D cameras, 3D visual systems, laser line scanners, and random robotic bin picking solutions are beginning with increasing velocity. the standard of the systems today not only ease the strain on employees but make robust the appliance of Zero Defect Manufacturing (ZDM) utilizing No Faults Forward (NFF) approaches.

Augmented Reality (AR): AR takes on many forms from station or warehouse scale projection systems to wearables. This rapidly expanding technology presents additional data and instruction to the user within their view of the important world which creates opportunities like never before. Imagine the time savings for training new operators! rather than working with a replacement employee on their assembly tasks for several hours, the new operator starts directly at their workstation and follows the directions presented; parts to select up are highlighted, how-to videos are run, and their motions are tracked for correctness. This non-intrusive system trains the new employee while not limiting the experienced team member, provides real motion data for DDM and enables NFF on manual operations. In high-mix / low-volume operations, it can dramatically improve output quality by ensuring things are done properly whenever.

Virtual Reality (VR), the entire immersion within the 3D simulation now allows global engineering teams to collaborate and review designs and systems that exist only during a computer without having to go away to their facilities. The teams can interact, walk around, price changes and work together as if they were together within the same room around real hardware.

Additive Manufacturing (AM): 3D printing is re-writing the principles of the way to design and make things. AM isn't only used for prototyping and manufacturing trials (machine interference, CMM teaching, fluid studies…) but additionally for tooling, fixtures, and gauges. These are being produced in great numbers. Created during a very short time at minimal cost, these things are often iterated and optimized for the parts and application. Production parts are always the will. Metal and lots of polymer systems produce parts suitable for end-use. Design technologies are catching up with our abilities to “grow” parts. Generative Design / Topology Optimization are technologies where the pc uses loads, torques, envelope and constraints provided by the engineer to evolve the planning. It does this through multitudes of iterations and presents functional geometry options at a minimal weight which will not have occurred to the user.

Machine Learning / AI (AI): Many manufacturing challenges still believe people. Difficult inspection processes or operations with an excellent deal of variability of parts require the intelligence of individuals to form decisions. Optimization of machine cycles and robot motion today may only be taken thus far thanks to human limitations. The capabilities of AI and Machine Learning are expanding at a quick pace and can soon be another common tool during a Manufacturing Engineer’s toolbox to require on these and other tasks. These technologies are good at finding the anomaly and dealing through multitudes of trials to seek out the proper solution. As processing power increases, so will the appliance of those technologies.

This rapidly expanding world of producing technologies and capabilities is actually exciting. Manufacturing Engineers have always found developing new processes and manufacturing systems to be rewarding. With new tools and technologies repeatedly becoming available, how could anyone not become even more enamored with this profession?