2017 was a breakthrough year for digital factory solutions. Additive manufacturing, Industry 4.0, and digital transformation all gained momentum, cementing the need for factory Ethernet if manufacturers want to compete globally.
Which technologies will dominate factory floors in 2018? We consulted with Clearpath Robotics and Festo Canada to determine which solutions would be difference-makers this year.
Given the momentum built in 2017, IT/OT convergence will continue to be top-of-mind in 2018 as more manufacturers come around to the opportunities created by an industrial IT network.
Added to this is the fact manufacturers are facing increased pricing pressure from global competitors, as well as significant personnel and operational costs. These pressures won’t go away in 2018, and by converging IT and OT systems manufacturers will be able to identify efficiency opportunities to save time and money.
Mechatronics is a vital piece of the Industry 4.0 puzzle. As Ben Hope from Festo Canada explains, “2017 really saw progress on the data side of Industry 4.0. But what is the next step? If we’re taking data from our automation components, it’s likely we want to gain insights from that data, and it’s also likely we’ll want take actions based on those insights.”
“We need mechatronic solutions that are agile, reconfigurable, and intelligent so that they can respond and adapt to changes in production requirements. Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are the means to achieve that kind of functionality. I think in 2018, industry will move from that conceptual definition of a CPS to looking at how these systems are designed, and how they can be implemented. Automation technology suppliers are starting to offer products that integrate complex function with intelligence and communication.”