The digital world isn’t the only industry that has undergone a transformation in the past year, the world of industrial automation has also seen some big changes. From the introduction of social distancing solutions to innovative technologies impacting the plant floor. Let’s have a deeper look into some of the top industrial automation trends in 2021 that are set to help improve operations further.
1. Technology Convergence
The worlds of IT and operations have completely merged during the past year, as manufacturers have realised the importance of connecting the two. With a rise in the demand for tighter integrations, connectivity/convergence between operations technology and information technology has been essential.
This also includes the integration of power and automation to help improve sustainability across the lifecycle of bespoke automated systems. Another advantage of combining power and automation is that production efficiencies improve, unscheduled downtime is reduced, thus increasing overall profitability.
2. Operational Resilience Grows In Importance
Whether businesses have had to switch to remote working, or introduce social distancing measures to ensure the safety of their employees, resilience has been key this year. Even before COVID manufacturers faced challenges such as fluctuation in demand, supply chain disruptions, and the need for agile internal processes.
We recently looked at the pharmaceutical & healthcare industries to see how they could cope with high demand production. These industries in particular have had to react quickly to the changes brought about by the pandemic, ensuring operational resilience. During the next year, we predict more manufacturers will look to lower safety risks, improve remote operational performance and generally optimising production.
3. Remote Becomes The ‘New Normal’
With customers across the globe, here at Euroflow we have been carrying out remote work on our machines for years now. We recently designed and engineered a cabbage processing solution for USA Group where (due to COVID travel restrictions) we integrated remote access software into the machine. This allowed our technical support engineers to dial into each machine, all the way from our site in Boston, Lincolnshire!
Augmented Reality (AR) is also going to be popular this year. This will allow organisations to view a machine, with information digitally overlaid. The AR device will sense what part of the machine the remote worker is looking at, and display the relevant data for the operation required.
4. Automation Becomes Autonomation
Whilst these words look very similar, they actually have different meanings. Automation is using technology and machines to carry out repetitive, mundane tasks with minimal human assistance. Autonomation is also known as intelligent automation, and is where the machine can stop when an error happens. This can be automatic or where a human intervenes to manually stop the machine.
During automation, as the machine doesn’t detect a defect and stop automatically, these defects can cost between 30-200% of the cost of the part that was made. So as you can see autonomation can save businesses a lot of money in the long run. At the moment, human operators decide how to act when something out of the ordinary happens. The future is very much heading towards autonomous machines where they will be making the decisions, with humans simply observing the process.
5. Shifting Towards Process Automation
The trend of process automation is something that is only going to continue to grow throughout this year. The pandemic did speed up the automation of monotonous tasks, but this has been a long time coming. Our denesters, for example, are the perfect solution for automating a task that is often very tedious and repetitive.
Rather than just thinking about how organisations can improve their processes and add more automation into their production lines, they have had to actually implement these ideas. With more and more companies embracing digital technologies, there is going to be a definite shift from task-based automation to functional-based automation over the next year.
If you are looking to automate some of your processes, why not get in touch with the team at Euroflow to see how we can help your business. Contact us today or call us on 01205 357887.