Zebra Technologies, manufacturer of mobile computers, scanners, and barcode printers, has released the findings from its annual Manufacturing Vision Study.
The global study of 1,100 executives from automotive, high tech, food, beverage, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies, conducted on Zebra’s behalf by Peerless Insights, sought to uncover trends emerging within the industrial manufacturing space.
Central to the findings is evidence of a concerted push towards Industry 4.0 and the smart factory vision. Manufacturers are increasingly looking to achieve intelligent exchange of information between sensors, devices and machines in factories, in order to achieve more with less. Zebra’s study supports this view, suggesting that by 2022, 64 percent of manufacturers expect to be fully connected, compared with just 43 percent today.
Wearables and voice
The company believes technology such as radio frequency identification (RFID), automated systems and other emerging technologies will be used more frequently to monitor the physical processes of a plant and enable better informed decisions in areas such as predictive maintenance.
Zebra also found that over half (55 percent) of manufacturers plan to adopt wearable technologies by 2022. In its report, the company suggests that, “while still a relatively young technology, wearables offer a plethora of opportunities to improve safety and increase productivity on the plant floor. For example, some solutions can monitor a worker’s physical condition and alert supervisors if issues arise that could be considered a health hazard.”
Likewise, there will be a boom in the adoption of voice technologies in the coming five years. Zebra believes that 51 percent of manufacturers are planning to expand their use of voice technology in the years between now and 2022, with the most significant growth reportedly coming from those with annual revenues in excess of $1 billion. Adoption among these manufacturers is anticipated to come in at 55 percent by 2022.
“As manufacturers seek to eliminate the need to store excessive inventory, voice technologies will play a key role in just in time (JIT) manufacturing and automating processes,” the company said.
Consequently, there will be a decline in the use of manual processes, such as pen and paper, which is currently used by a surprisingly high 62 percent of manufacturers to track vital steps in the production cycle. Given how inefficient this is, it it may only be used by one in five manufacturers by 2022.
“IIoT has crossed the chasm”
Commenting on the findings, Jeff Schmitz, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Zebra said: “Manufacturers are entering a new era in which producing high-quality products is paramount to retaining and acquiring customers as well as capturing significant cost savings that impact the bottom line. The results of Zebra’s 2017 Manufacturing Vision Study prove that IIoT has crossed the chasm, and savvy manufacturers are investing aggressively in technologies that will create a smarter, more connected plant floor to achieve greater operational visibility and enhance quality.”
Smart factories are surely coming, but with the advent of increased efficiency and greater productivity levels, chief executives fear a backlash from employees. An automation survey released in January by accountancy firm, PwC, found that around half of executives worry that the fourth industrial revolution, where robots and sensors work alongside people in factories, will be met with distrust by workers.
Speaking about these findings, Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner of PwC, said that “With the current pace of technological change, it is hard to predict what jobs will look like in the future, so as well as developing digital skills, it is important that employees are adaptive and able to respond to the next skills challenge. Those that can will be in high demand.”
“Emerging technology development will require diverse thinking to ensure the fourth industrial revolution is representative of the population and doesn’t leave anybody behind as we reshape our economy,” he added.