[Updated] 4 Sophisticated Technologies Changing Manufacturing

Posted by Team Waddle on 02-Nov-2017 08:34:22

Image credit: Ex Machina (film)

With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the future has arrived.

Everything operationally can be connected, but what does that mean for modern manufacturing?

Assets, operations and business systems across the entire supply chain can be connected promising endless possibilities.

SEE ALSO: The Tech Savvy Entrepreneurs Roadmap to Working Capital

Prior to the rise of the Internet

Today’s world of manufacturing is vastly different from The Industrial Revolution, which took place from the 18th to 19th centuries.

There are pivotal points in time which have played a significant role in shaping how things are made. From Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press developed in 1440 to the steam engine in 1712 which resulted in machinery, locomotives and ships during the Industrial Revolution.

Once interchangeable parts made their way into manufacturing in 1801 through to assembly lines in 1913 and lean manufacturing in the 1930’s took shape, technologies have been steadily gaining steam (history timeline). Nothing has shaped manufacturing processes today more than the rise of the internet and Its cross over to physical machines.

Some have heralded the cross over as the 4th Industrial Revolution which is set to compound the rate of manufacturing development exponentially. The Fourth Industrial Revolution can be described as a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, and impacting all disciplines, economies and industries.

VIDEO: How Industry 4.0 Will Change Manufacturing Forever

We have already seen this reality with Tesla Motors’ “Over-the-Air Updates” enabling a manufacturer to update software without recalling a product, something that is possibly the best example of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to date.

The second example of rapid advancements is an engineering and robotics design company called Boston Dynamics best known for the development of BigDog, a quadruped robot designed for the U.S. military. The company has a range of robots it has developed for military right through to manufacturing scenarios coming soon to a factory near you.

The latest robot revealed is SpotMini. A small four-legged robot that comfortably fits in an office or home.  It weighs 25 kg (30 kg if you include the arm). SpotMini is all-electric and can go for about 90 minutes on a charge, depending on what it is doing.

We've put together four upcoming smart technologies to get your juices flowing. Even if you're not at this level, it's worth thinking about how you can automate your own operation.

Bringing efficiencies that can increase bottom line profits and deliver product on time, within budgets should always be a core strategy.

Below are some of the smart technologies:


We hear this word a lot today and it's already a prominent feature in manufacturing efficiencies and safety. Automation is quickly making its way into end products displayed in driverless cars, drones, construction, bulldozers, mining and trucks.

Manufacturers today have implemented robots that can follow pre-defined sequences for assembly lines with this ending in sophisticated robots that will evaluate a task and react accordingly.

A great example of recent automation is in the construction industry. Homes are taking shape through robotics, laying bricks to printing entire homes from scratch.

GE's "Brilliant Factory" merges hardware and software, reimagining how products are designed, made and serviced. It's all about automating the entire cycle through data, making predictions and acting upon them.

It has been pointed out not to think of AI and automation as the answer to all of your problems, rather pin point problems first before putting it in place and figure out how automation could solve the issue first. Humans still have the ultimate role to play and it will be a while before you can set and forget.

One way to test if new technology can work for you is to adopt a process of "design sprints".  Before implementing, see if it works, learn from it and scale it up once you can see the problem being solved.

3D Printing

The earliest 3D printing technologies first hit in the late 1980’s, at which time they were called Rapid Prototyping (RP) technologies. 2013 marked the year of popularity and mainstream attention.

Amazingly, 3D Printing has even been used in medicine to construct organs for use in transplant patients. Entire homes have been built, including tools used to build Volvo's auto parts and even foods such as pizzas.

3D printing will also make its way into mainstream communities and households. As we see increased usage in manufacturing plants, this will drive down costs, eventually seeing usage in local outlets. The future of purchasing a product online, having it printed locally and picking it up that afternoon will become a reality.

Could you imagine printing a pizza for dinner or better yet, a Yoda Head?

Cyber Security

Until now, cyber security has been a niche area of expertise, but this is rapidly changing as the devices and objects around us become increasingly connected, or networked.

Cyber security has generally been an afterthought for manufacturers.

Over the last few years, there have been some high-profile demonstrations of the consequences of ignoring cyber security including the shutdown of a Jeep Cherokee.

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What threatens the 4th Industrial Revolution are the ransomware attacks targeting networks, enabling hackers to take control of software and connected equipment. It could be used for Industrial Espionage or the entire shutdown of industries.

In reality, the vast majority of systems infected by these attacks are found to have been built with minimal protection in place.

Smart factories are the future, manufactures are not immune to cyber crime and must follow market trends to put in place safe guards.

The Cyber Protection industry across the globe has boomed, making it easier to put systems in place. It's not just for large factories, usually smaller, unprotected operators are targeted at mass due to their venerability.

Cloud data and access to capital

Cloud computing first surfaced in the 1950s with mainframe computing. After some time during the 1970s, virtual machines (VMs) were created. These advances allowed operators to store data in a central location and access it from anywhere via terminals.

Once the internet started to offer significant bandwidth in the 1990s, cloud computing for the masses was something that started to take shape.

Skipping ahead to today

A lot of the technologies we see today have been facilitated by the development of Amazon Web Services in 2002. Amazon allowed the cost effective development of SaaS services we see today such as Atlassian, Xero, ME Bank, Sage, SAP to name a few.

This enabled manufacturers to scale up operations cheaply by storing data in the cloud, interconnecting services together. In the past, enormous servers and networks were purchased and stored on site, requiring regular updates and maintenance.

Financial data and systems moved online in 1998 thanks to Netsuite which is web-hosted accounting software. Another heavyweight, SAP Business One went live in 2004 however,  2009 marked the year that small business accounting systems began the migration online with Sage and Coda.

In 2006, Xero, a New Zealand based SaaS provider took shape, gaining popularity across Australia, eventually moving to the U.S and U.K today. Xero led the charge, followed closely by MYOB.

In 2016, according to The International Data Association, 50% of global companies now utilise cloud computing.

Online lending

Online financial data held in cloud accounting platforms has matured significantly in the past three years. These platforms have built application programming interface (API), enabling thousands of software developers to build applications that integrate with this rich data.

A vast array of services built entire companies off the back of these connections. Lending entered the online market a lot later due to the maturity of data held by accounting software providers and the move by tier one banks to online banking.

Traditional lending can be traced back to the beginning of civilisation through 3,000-year-old written loan contracts from Mesopotamia that show the development of a credit system and included the concept of interest.

It wasn't until 1985 that a company called Quicken Loans launched with much of the application and review process online. 2006 marked the year that online lending started its journey online.

Lenders still had no way of automating data movements from borrowers to assess and provide on-going credit outside of traditional manual processes.

Data transforms lending

The data held by cloud accounting platforms in recent years has facilitated the rise of alternative lenders to build custom software, automating every aspect of financing.

Accounting providers such as Xero, MYOB and QuickBooks Online have app market places to add-on these services with just a few clicks.

Traditional banks have been slow to move and are instead partnering with innovative start-ups that have built cutting-edge technology.

After the lending process moved online, entrepreneurs and data scientists quickly began dreaming up new ways to get credit to responsible borrowers. Cloud-enabled businesses are favoured due to the transparency provided and reduced administrational load both on the lender and the borrower.

Manufacturers that run cloud-based systems are now able to connect to these lending sources by authorising data access. This access allows lenders to automate applications, credit and on-going working capital that changes with business conditions via the data access.

What traditionally took weeks and months, is now done within minutes.

This transformational change in lending is often overlooked however, manufacturers require end-to-end integrated solutions that do not disrupt the operational flow. The "Brilliant Factory" concept by GE is the future of manufacturing efficiencies connecting every service for real-time monitoring.

The ability to tap into funding in real-time is another advancement in technology that every modern factory can integrate alongside financial data right through to the factory floor.


Got a story? media@waddle.com.au

Inside Waddle regularly shares client growth stories, thoughts on #Fintech, lending, company culture, product strategy and design.

Waddle gives small businesses the tools to accelerate cash flow & grow without growing pains. Works effortlessly with Xero, MYOBQuickBooks

Topics: AI, Automation, Cyber Security, Manufacturing, Cloud Computing

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