While the term ‘advanced manufacturing’ has been around a long time, it represents a whole new world for American manufacturing. Advanced manufacturing will boost worker productivity with intelligent industrial software that integrates data and helps companies make smarter decisions while delivering better products. This increased productivity is the key link in manufacturing changes. Increased productivity is viewed as the way to gain a competitive edge in a global market.
What is advanced manufacturing?
In a broad sense, advanced manufacturing includes technologies that are highly-flexible, data-enabled, and cost-efficient processes. This industrial software can integrate data to help companies make smarter decisions and deliver better products. Smarter automation through process sensors, controllers and robotics is also possible through these technologies. Advanced manufacturing can even provide real-time information that constantly informs a highly-skilled workforce.
Leading companies such as Ford and General Electric are already using some of these tools to make high-precision components. Many more American companies are exploring advanced manufacturing.
How can advanced manufacturing boost productivity?
Advanced manufacturing technologies can boost productivity in several ways. For one, the flexibility these technologies offer can allow individual customers to have products manufactured specifically to fit their needs and exact specifications. Advanced manufacturing is also more cost-effective when it comes to making new products than conventional manufacturing processes. Additionally, these technologies are more environmentally-friendly in that they need far less raw materials and generate less scrap. Workers are also exposed to fewer raw materials in advanced manufacturing.
Here are five technological tools that have the greatest potential for increased productivity in the coming years:
Industrial robots will be linked with control systems through information technology. This new technology includes robotic and automation systems that use sensors along with standard interfaces.
Integrated computational materials engineering
Through Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME), computer models of products are created before they are actually manufactured, which saves from building and testing multiple prototypes. In this way, engineers and designers can develop products better, faster and cheaper.
Similar to creating computer models of products through ICME, digital manufacturing uses virtual technology. This technology can be used to create digital factories to simulate the entire production process. Engineers can optimize the layout of the factory while identifying and correcting flaws in each step of the production process. Then, these engineers can replicate the process in actual physical assembly lines.
Industrial internet and flexible automation
Through these processes, manufacturing hardware will be linked together. This linking will enable machines to communicate with each other with data generated by sensors, automatically adjusting production.
The use of 3D printing is the centerpiece of additive manufacturing processes, with actual three-dimensional objects created based on digital models. Already used for making prototypes in some industries, these processes will be used build new kinds of products made out of one kind of material. It should be noted that the science of 3D printing is still evolving and isn’t expected to have significant impact on manufacturing processes in the near term. However, each of the above advanced manufacturing tools have been used by leading-edge manufacturers with impressive results.
Other advantages of advanced manufacturing
Thanks to advances in information technology, sensors and nanomaterials, the cost of cutting-edge manufacturing processes has become cheaper while the quality of their performance has improved. Digital technologies are slowly but steadily impacting every aspect of the production process. Furthermore, companies are under mounting pressure to improve productivity while being more responsive to customer needs. With advanced manufacturing technologies, manufacturers are able to easily modify designs and create a greater diversity of products.
Information technology will also enable networks, particularly networks of robots, to communicate with one another. This communication, in turn, will enable production systems and supply chains to be more efficient. Supplier networks on the industrial Internet will allow robots to adjust production flows with updated delivery schedules for parts and materials. This adjustment ability will reduce waste and inventory costs.
Current examples of advanced manufacturing processes being used by major manufacturers have demonstrated the potential of this new industrial model. Ford Motor reduced the time and cost for developing aluminum castings through the use of ICME. Ford estimates that it has generated cost savings of more than $120 million using advanced manufacturing technologies.
If you are looking to move your advanced manufacturing operations to Southeast Colorado, then consider the town of La Junta. La Junta Economic Development (LJED) supports businesses that are expanding or relocating to the greater Southeastern Colorado area. The community boasts a revitalized and vibrant downtown, ample open spaces, excellent schools, and amenities that rival those of major cities. To learn more about the region and how La Junta Economic Development can assist your business, contact us today. Give us a call at (719) 384-6965 or Contact Us via email.