There’s never been a more exciting time than now to get involved in smart technology. With advances occurring seemingly every other day in the factory workplace, from robotics to automation to brand-new manufacturing techniques, there’s plenty going on to interest both those in and outside the industry. Read on to discover what technological advances are improving the factory workplace on a daily basis.

Enhanced connectivity

From cloud computing and programming through the ‘internet of things’, according to Industry Week, the average manufacturing plant is more connected than it ever has been. In the last 10 years, we’ve made huge leaps and bounds in the usage of connected and cloud technology in everything from the workplace to our home life – anything from mobile management to analytics software can allow for the development and accessibility of smart factory equipment and manufacturing processes to be more accessible than ever.

There’s no need to be chained to a desk or to manually check every component in an automated assembly for feedback, diagnostics or management; with the evolution of smart, connected technology, it’s never been easier to troubleshoot, improve productivity and gather data from one central location; the cloud. Add a tablet or laptop into the mix, and anywhere on-site can become an office, management centre or engineering zone.

3D printing

What may have initially sounded like a gimmicky product with limited use has soon proved itself as an invaluable tool in many factory and manufacturing plants, offering much-increased flexibility and faster speed for production. With 3D printing forever improving and growing in use, Hawsons considers 3D printing one of the most significant improvements in manufacturing in the past few years. Cost-effective production is just one thing this innovative form of production offers.

Unlike other purpose-built technologies, one of the many bonuses of 3D printing is how versatile it can be. Whether the customisation or alteration of product in-house is a factory requirement, or you’re looking to print and manufacture a product in one location, industrial 3D printing can be the first step toward automating these processes between machines. 3D printing is no longer limited to plastics, and with metals, carbons and other materials being created with the aid of this technology, it’s no wonder that 3D printing is on the up when it comes to ‘smart factories’.

Factory automation

It’s no secret that robotics and automation are becoming a more integral process and are already a fixture on many factory floors. Continually improving, evolving and developing new, more efficient methods of manufacture, embracing the digital revolution is of enormous advantage to factory owners and managers. There are scores of benefits to investing in automation technology for the average factory, ranging from reduced production costs to the simple elimination of human error from the production process.

Machines can’t get bored, get tired or make mistakes – they simply do what they are coded to do, over and over again until they are told to stop. As such, factory work is the ideal use of this technology, taking over the most repetitive roles from human employees. Though this technology will no doubt alter the landscape of factory working, by introducing machines where there were previously people, it will also open up a considerable market for skilled engineers, with ITProPortal suggesting that in the US alone, “3.5 million engineering roles will need to be filled in America by 2025”. That’s a vast market for advancement for the workforce as well as the factory, offering countless new opportunities to work alongside these machines.

Collaborative Robotics

Though we’ve already talked about automation, that’s one small role in what robotics can achieve in the factory workplace. While basic automation can allow for the manufacture and constant production level of fundamental, repetitive functions, advancements in more complex robotics can provide an entirely different set of skills to the average factory.

Robots that work alongside people, performing part of a role or providing support in specific areas, are a low-investment, cost-effective method factories can introduce robotics to their manufacturing processes. Not all production processes are equal; for those that require hand-finished details, small additions or even careful quality control, collaborative robots are the perfect addition to the workplace.

According to Gray Engineering, “One of the hottest types of robots on the market today are those that work in collaborative environments, side-by-side with humans” – that means when it comes to introducing robotics to the workplace, machines and people working side by side may become the new norm. A smaller footprint, easy deployment and simple process make their maintenance cheaper and more accessible than large automation processes, while still offering high-value productivity power. When it comes to smart factories, robots and humans working side by side may be a regular, day-to-day occurrence.

If you’re looking towards the future of your factory or just want help in producing specific parts, Subcon Laser can help. Contact us today to discover how our services can help your factory become that bit smarter.