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Top 4 Technologies Shaping Manufacturing in 2024

Zac Francis
Zac Francis

Manufacturing has a longstanding relationship with technology, dating all the way back to the multi-spindle spinning frame (known as the “spinning jenny”) in the 18th century. Since then, workers and technology have collaborated alongside one another to increase productivity, streamline business processes, and optimize entire operations. 

It’s now 2024 and spinning jenny’s have been replaced by advanced robotics, digitized shop floors, and other progressive tech, resulting in the rise of the Smart Factory.

There may be no industry more in tune with the benefits of technology than manufacturing. But that doesn’t mean every business has its finger on the pulse of the digital zeitgeist. In fact, considering the many problems facing manufacturers, you could excuse them for not doing their research.

But don't worry, we’re here to help. We’ve done the research for you and selected 4 technologies manufacturers can adopt to optimize the way they work both this year and in the following.

Interested? Keep reading to find out more.

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Making technology the solution, not the problem

Before we blow you away with our recommendations, we must highlight the importance of investing in the right technology. 

Manufacturing is already an ultra-competitive industry, and most businesses don’t have the luxury of investing poorly. Of course, many already know this, and 47% of manufacturers report identifying the right technology is the most difficult thing when planning investments. And each operation is unique, meaning the most expensive technology isn’t always the best fit. 44% of businesses struggle with identifying technologies that are compatible with their existing systems.

So, you might be thinking that, with all these problems, why invest in any kind of technology? Well, the price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake. When applied correctly, digital investments reduce employee turnover, increase productivity and efficiency, and pay dividends.

With this in mind, we’re recommending technologies with widespread application. These are the Swiss army knives of the technological world, already widespread among other industries and heavily featured in our day-to-day lives. There’s a good chance they solve some of the issues your business faces.

Let’s get to it.

Top 4 technologies shaping manufacturing in 2024

AI and its many applications

There’s no hotter technology right now than Artificial Intelligence (AI). A common sign of effective tech is if it’s widespread in our day-to-day lives, and AI is everywhere. If you’re reading this on your phone, there’s a good chance you unlocked it with face ID, or maybe you asked Alexa to read it to you—both of those are examples of AI.

Other industries, such as hospitality, are investing to optimize their own operations. And manufacturers know it can do the same for them, with 93% recognizing AI as the key technology for fostering growth and innovation in manufacturing.

But where to apply it? It could be quicker to tell you where AI can’t be used, but here are some of its most relevant uses:

  • Inventory management - AI provides data-driven insights, identifying trends to help businesses better understand demand and lead times to minimize risk of excess inventory and stockouts.
  • Health and safety - AI analyzes machinery data to anticipate problems before they occur, reducing the risk of injury and maintaining supply line optimization in the process. It also carries out risk assessment, interpreting relevant data to identify patterns that contribute to accidents, helping manufacturers implement proactive safety measures.
  • Employee training  - AI analyzes operational data to identify training gaps and personalize learning paths. It may also be used in conjunction with Augmented Reality (AR) to create an immersive experience within a safe, controlled setting.

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The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of interconnected devices embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies that enable them to collect and exchange data over the Internet. In manufacturing, IoT is revolutionizing operations by creating a connected ecosystem where machines, systems, and humans can communicate seamlessly.

That’s a lot to take in, so let us give you some practical examples.

By using wireless sensors attached to machines, manufacturers can access real-time data including vibrations, surrounding temperature, acceleration, and sound frequencies to detect potential problems before they impact productivity.

Or maybe your focus is supply chain optimization. IoT sensors can track the location, condition, and movement of raw materials, works-in-progress, and finished goods throughout the supply chain. This data is then used to streamline logistics, reduce lead times, and optimize inventory levels.

The rise of the digital twin

A digital twin is a virtual replica of a real-world entity or process. For manufacturers, imagine a digital version of your warehouse, machinery, or factory floor that you can access in order to better understand, analyze, and improve your operation. 

Created using real-time data from physical sensors and IoT devices, a digital twin can help optimize machine maintenance and repairs, facilitate space planning, and standardize business practices across locations without needing to visit the site.

If you’re still struggling to see the benefit, picture this: You’re training a group of new hires but you’ve run into some issues. Your classroom training fails to contextualize the practical elements of the job, while the noise and potential hazards of the factory floor make it difficult for newbies to ask questions and engage with what they’re seeing. 

The solution? A digital twin that allows trainees to navigate the factory floor and engage with their soon-to-be role without risking physical injury or disrupting operational processes.

Speaking of training...

Optimize your workforce with mobile training

How are you training your workforce? Is it compatible with their needs? Despite all of our advances in technology, some manufacturers continue to roll out the same training they implemented in the 90’s. 

A manufacturing workforce has unique needs: They’re always on the move, operating potentially dangerous machinery, and require an acute awareness of potential hazards. Your training must account for this. 

While long-format, classroom training has its place, it fails to capture the practical nature of manufacturing work, and requires workers to be removed from the factory floor for extended periods, impacting productivity and efficiency. Other limitations include lack of engagement and failure to promote knowledge retention.

The solution? Mobile training for your workforce. By utilizing technology that’s widespread among your workers, you’re able to effortlessly standardize training practices. No need to organize a training day every time – your workers can access training where and when they need it most. 

And it’s not just about accessibility, but also quality. Mobile training takes advantage of microlearning; bite-sized information that promotes engagement and knowledge retention. Imagine a TikTok-style digital SOP, that shows workers how to use a new piece of equipment or highlights potential health and safety risks. 

What if mobile training isn't viable? Maybe you're not allowed mobile phones on the shop floor, or they're not yet commonplace among your staff.

eduMe is the platform of choice for your manufacturing workforce. By seamlessly slotting into your existing technology, we empower workers to take their learning into their own hands and make standardizing training across locations a stress-free process. 

We’ve already worked with other companies within the industry, helping them optimize their employee training and reap rewards, like a 200% increase in training completion, leading to 20% reduction in year-on-year injuries, a 50% reduction in turnover, and ultimately, a $600,000 cost saving.

Let us do the same for you. Get in touch with us now. Not ready to chat? Then watch this 5-minute demo instead.