Five tech trends to watch out for in manufacturing in 2019

2018 marked a turbulent year for manufacturers, with UK output declining amidst an uncertain business and economic landscape. In light of this, Graeme Wright, CTO for manufacturing, utilities, and services at Fujitsu UK, shares his five technology trends to watch out for in manufacturing in 2019.

3D printing: We saw some significant milestones in 2018 for 3D printing (or additive manufacturing); NASA printed the first rocket engine, 3D printed vegan steaks, and the world’s first 3D printed home. And this coming year is set to be just as exciting, as manufacturers find new business models and services, underpinned by technology. However, what will be key for manufacturers this year is the way in which they manage the digital rights and intellectual property for parts, as this will become a critical factor to their business. Manufacturers will need to think about how they are going to effectively control the digital rights of their designs, as well as the warranty for their products and how they adjust their business models in accordance with this.

Moving to the Edge: For many manufacturing organisations, they still depend on skilled workers to undertake repetitive visual inspection tasks across quality control, adding significant cost to production, in a period where price pressures are ever increasing. These current processes are also susceptible to human error, risking product quality with potential reputational damage. In 2019, we expect to see more manufacturers begin to deploy Edge computing, using IoT to bring the Cloud and physical worlds together and in turn, use this technology to better monitor their equipment. They will be able to receive image analysis and image recognition which can be used to identify and fix any problems, quality issues or security threats much more quickly and efficiently and enable their workforce to focus on bigger, more time-consuming tasks.

Using digital twins to move beyond AI: The term ‘Digital Twins’ is when companies build digital models of the physical world, creating a digital replica or ‘twin’. Through Digital Twins, manufacturing companies can run simulations of their equipment such as motors or machinery and harness data and insights of these simulations. This is where manufacturing companies can move beyond AI, which so far has been used for predictive maintenance. Now, we will see manufacturers use this intelligence to action real change by bringing all of their systems together to truly optimise them and drive value. This will be where the real reward and cost savings can be reaped from AI.

Blockchain: When it comes to blockchain, 2019 will be the year we see real implementations outside of currency. In a time where trust is hard to come by, it will play an increasingly important role in building that trust, across a progressively complex supply chain. It will enable an ecosystem of things to trade seamlessly and autonomously.This will include transactions in supply chain security with the logistics part of manufacturing, especially where products are IoT enabled. Thanks to the secure digital ledgers, we expect blockchain to help make customs quicker.

All about security: With all of these developments, the one trend that underpins them all is security. Security needs to be built and embedded into all systems, products, devices and technology and should never be an afterthought. Security needs to be incorporated into an organisations’ core and play a fundamental part of the processes and policies to protect the systems and data harvested.Ultimately, as an increased number of products become internet-connected, if a manufacturer finds itself in the heat of a security breach, it could have disastrous reputational and financial repercussions on the business.