Technology in the manufacturing industry: 5 innovations shaping 2024

Insight • 17/01/24

An image of an automated factory line, a visual metaphor for the topic of this article: Technology in the manufacturing industry: 5 innovations shaping 2024

The Topline

Technology is driving efficiencies in the manufacturing sector now more than ever. By keeping on top of the latest tech and how they are being used, the in-house counsel can spot issues and give practical, actionable advice to the business.

Luke Jackson, Director, Technology & Digital

Luke Jackson in Colour, small close up.

The adoption of technology in business is relentless, not least in the manufacturing sector. According to Deloitte’s 2024 manufacturing industry outlook study, 86% of surveyed manufacturing executives believe that smart factory solutions will be the primary drivers of competitiveness in the next five years. This piece cuts through the jargon to look at novel and adventurous uses of technology in the smart factory as we head in to 2024.

Digital Twins

What is it? A Digital Twin is a virtual representation of an intended or actual real-world physical product, process or system. The ‘virtual twin’ receives data in real time from the ‘physical twin’. Based on the data, the virtual twin can then be used for simulation, testing, maintenance, and monitoring. In essence this means everything from a piece of manufacturing equipment to an entire production line can be virtually monitored.

Use case: Recently, Team Penske’s NASCAR race teams partnered with Siemens giving them access to advanced simulation solutions and digital design. This included the use of Digital Twins. The engineers of the motor racing cars have virtually tested innovating new parts, optimising the cars performance overall without having to alter the physical car. The use of this innovative technology has enabled cleaner, more efficient programming saving the engineers significant time whilst producing more effective cars.

Find out more: New digital innovation platform propels Team Penske to championship season

Artificial Intelligence

What is it? Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence processes in machines. The systems can perform tasks that usually require human cognitive abilities such as learning from data, problem solving and even decision making. AI has been effectively used for predictive maintenance, robotics, quality control spot checks, automation, and efficiency of the supply chain.

Use case: French food manufacturer Danone Group uses AI to improve its demand forecast accuracy. This has led to a 20% decrease in forecasting errors, 30% decrease in lost sales and 50% reduction in demand planners’ workload.

Find out more: 17 Remarkable Use Cases of AI in Manufacturing

Industrial Metaverse

What is it? The Industrial Metaverse is a convergence of individual technologies combined to create an immersive virtual, or virtual/physical industrial environment. Virtual replicas of real machines and factories, individual components and parts can be created. AI, cloud computing and digital twins are three of the key technologies behind the industrial metaverse.

The industrial metaverse is currently used in four common areas.

Number one, in production, manufacturers can stimulate key processes, evaluate them, and create virtual prototypes of processes of systems.

Two, a simulated factory can be made to optimise factory set up and layout, driving efficiency. Secondly, manufacturers can have better oversight of their supply chain, tracking products, raw materials and collaborating with suppliers.

Three, virtual showrooms and product dimensions can be created so that people can attend at any time virtually, elevating customer service.

Finally, the industrial metaverse can also be used for talent management with immersive training, virtual plant tours, virtual recruiting, and onboarding.

It is predicted that, as a result of these meaningful ways of using the tech, by the end of the decade the metaverse will be a multitrillion-dollar market – driving sustainability and digital transformation of businesses and entire industries.

Use case: Siemens’ Digital Native Factory in Nanjing is an example of the Industrial Metaverse being used in the Manufacturing Industry. A digital twin of the entire factory was created, refining the building, and detecting and mitigating potential issues at an early stage. By pre-emptively detecting these issues the business has saved a significant amount of time and money. Siemens have reported that their manufacturing capacity has increased by 200% and productivity has increase by 20%, demonstrating the benefits of the Industrial Metaverse.

Find out more: What is the Industrial Metaverse – and why should I care – Industrial Metaverse

Predictive Maintenance

What is it? Predictive Maintenance (PdM) is a condition-based monitoring system for monitoring and analysing an asset’s performance, status and overall health in real-time. PdM collects data through sensor devices, assessing an equipment’s condition. Some key benefits of PdM for manufacturers are reduced downtime, increased productivity and lower maintenance costs as critical malfunctions or breakdowns can be predicted and prevented.

Use case: Recently, PepsiCo have attached sensors to their equipment to listen out for indications of hardware faults. The sensors can recognise sounds of weary machines and maintenance can be scheduled to avoid product lines grinding to a halt.

Find out more: How factories are deploying AI on production lines – BBC News

Automation and Robotics

What is it? Industrial automation and robotics are the use of control systems, information technology and computers to handle industrial processes and machinery. Robotics are commonly used in manufacturing for assembly and material handling, increasing productivity. The use of automation and robotics removes the risk of human error particularly where there are repetitive or dangerous tasks. Further, computerised maintenance management systems can held reduce the need for on-site personnel.

Use case: Fanuc, a Japanese factory-automation company have been using robotics to operate its factories twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. The robots are used to produce key components for Computer Numerical Control’s (CNC) and motors. They also continuously operate all production floor machinery and facilitate continuous monitoring of all operations.

Find out more: 17 Remarkable Use Cases of AI in Manufacturing

In conclusion

Though some of these technologies may be nascent, the principles that underpin their contracting agreements have many parallels with more familiar IT arrangements.

Our Technology & Digital practice recently issued a white paper reporting on the edge technologies being encountered by in-house legal teams across all sectors. Contact Luke, or any other member of our team to find out how we can support you with implementing new technologies into your operations efficiently and securely.

Ready to get started?

Use our timeline to guide you through each step.