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Crisis presents opportunity for manufacturers to reassess their digitalisation

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A crisis is a defining moment, and it can take a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic for people -- and companies -- to find the courage to make significant changes to the way they do things. In the manufacturing industry, the pandemic represents an opportunity for firms to reassess their digital strategy, writes Paul Hogendoorn in an article for Manufacturing Automation. The current crisis is of sufficient magnitude that the trajectories of many businesses will be altered, Hogendoorn explains. How they fare will be to a large extent affected by the decisions and choices they make. Hogendoorn goes on to discuss the three most common conversations he had with manufacturers before the pandemic struck: - the challenge of digitising their work flow; - gaining visibility into their production condition in real time; and - the need to make their factories and jobs more attractive to a younger work force. When it comes to attracting the next generation into manufacturing, we need t

COVID-19 highlights the benefits of factory automation

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Industrial automation had still not been widely deployed before the COVID-19 pandemic, with investment held back by flat capital expenditure and declining industrial production, says a new report from GlobalData. And as the data and analytics company points out, the virus has since closed thousands of factories, with workers around the world sent home. It has become crystal clear that, despite much hype over the years, advanced factory automation has not taken over from human workers at scale. Organisations that invested in robotics as part of their automation strategy were much better able to keep on running when COVID-19 struck. The virus may serve to accelerate investment in factory automation when the global economy eventually rebounds, but that will take a while, said David Bicknell, principal analyst for thematic research at GlobalData. He continued: "The fallout from COVID-19 will now focus organisations on the need to automate faster in the medium term, no

Will COVID-19 accelerate the shift to Industry 4.0?

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The current global health crisis is also a business and economic crisis and will change the way we work, with a greater focus on technology. That's according to Nigel Green, CEO of financial advisory firm deVere Group, who says that a recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to a "fundamental shift" in how we live, do business and invest. In particular, Green expects to see an acceleration in the adoption and development of Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, reports technology and business news provider Verdict. "The coronavirus outbreak can be expected to speed up the so-called fourth revolution, which is fuelled by new technologies such as artificial intelligence and mobile supercomputing," he said. The physical distancing and self-isolation measures currently in place around the world are likely to help reinforce the adoption of digital technologies, Green added. "Enforced social distancing will highligh

Manufacturers turn to automation and smart tech as coronavirus hits production

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The coronavirus pandemic is likely to hasten the rollout of automation and smart technology in the manufacturing industry. Government rules aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 have kept employees at home and disrupted supply chains. As a result, manufacturers around the world have been forced to chose their factories and radically rethink how they operate.   In a recent article for CNBC.com, Rebecca Fannin looked at how the virus has impacted manufacturers based in China, the first country to be hit by the virus. The biggest impact was seen in sectors with large assembly operations such as auto manufacturers and electronic component makers. Resuming production "has been a struggle" at many factories, but highly automated plants such as Cadillac's new Shanghai facility had a head start, Fannin explained.  The Cadillac factory, opened in 2016, has 386 robots and two fully automated production lines that do welding and painting.   One clear, long-term imp

Manufacturing: coronavirus puts spotlight on what can be done remotely

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The coronavirus outbreak is taking a heavy toll on businesses in all industries, with offices around the world temporarily closing to help stop the spread of the disease. But many industries -- including manufacturing -- cannot easily switch to home-based working. In the United States, some automakers have told non-factory employees to work remotely while keeping production going, The Verge reports. Ford is among those that have taken this twin-track approach, instructing its employees to work remotely until further notice -- "except those in business-critical roles that cannot be done away from Ford facilities". In Europe, Ford has temporarily suspended vehicle and engine production at its manufacturing sites. New technologies enable factories to be operated with much less human intervention and it's thought the current crisis could accelerate the transition to Industry 4.0. According to a new white paper from ABI Research, the COVID-19 pandemic will force co

Smaller manufacturers 'have most to gain from Industry 4.0'

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Across the globe, manufacturers are at different stages of the journey towards Industry 4.0. Yet while most firms recognise the benefits of adopting advanced technology in their operations -- from efficiency savings to increased production quality and reduced downtime -- some have been slow to take the plunge. In Canada, a recent survey of 251 company owners and senior executives by PLANT Magazine and BDO Canada LLP found that almost 90% recognise that technologies such as digital, automation, the cloud and AI help them compete globally. Most of the companies involved in the survey are small, with more than half employing fewer than 50 people and/or generating revenue of less than C$10m (€6.5m) a year. Almost two thirds acknowledged that smaller operations have the most to gain from Industry 4.0. However, they are lagging behind their bigger competitors in adopting new industrial tech. For example, just 24% are using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to gather and a

Energy efficiency is a bigger and cheaper resource than currently assumed

October 3, 2018 Our capacity for energy efficiency is much greater than climate models assume, according to an editorial published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters. Energy expert Amory Lovins, co-founder and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute, says that the potential for energy efficiency has been massively understated, and its cost overstated, by analysing individual components and systems rather than whole buildings, vehicles and factories. This overlooks valuable ways to help the parts work together to save more energy at lower cost. Current thinking on climate change suggests that we need to use energy at least 3% more productively each year in order to stay below 2 degrees of global warming. Lovins argues that, in both newbuild and retrofit applications, the world's ability to sustain such rapid savings is far greater than previously thought. While the cost of renewable energy has fallen significantly in the past decade, energy eff