June 13, 2017

Tracking the Evolution of Automation

by Guest Blogger

Throughout history, there have been several points of great change in the world of manufacturing. In the 1900s, electricity revolutionized how businesses handled mass production. In the 1970s, manufacturers took advantage of computerized processes, and automation got its start.

In 2017, we’re looking toward another one of those tipping points. Many industry watchers now believe we have entered a period of another industrial revolution—Industry 4.0.—an era in which manufacturers efficiently produce materials utilizing both physical automation and robotic technology as well as intelligent, fully integrated software that enables machines to achieve maximized production and workflow.

You’ve heard of the Smart TV, the Smart Home. Now think the Smart Factory.
Consider an example: A breakdown of equipment in any plant can leave operations at a standstill, costing significant profit loss for every hour you’re not up and running. Now imagine predictive maintenance software that can alert plant operators before a breakdown leaves you stranded. It’s the kind of problem that the Smart Factory seeks to eliminate in the not-too-distant future.

Industry 4.0 and Fenestration

Does any of this sound familiar? The fenestration industry has seen automated technology bring new benefits to our manufacturing processes over the past several years now, and the momentum shows no signs of letting up.

Forward-thinking glass fabricators are bringing new technologies online to tackle critical challenges. High-speed automation for insulating glass (IG), for instance, can help us work through significant skilled labor shortages that have affected not just our industry, but many others. Automation can further help us achieve new rates of quality consistency all while producing more units per hour than ever before.

Industry 4.0, as it’s been defined, further incorporates smart software and artificial intelligence to make these processes even more efficient. And now that automated processes have enabled many in the fenestration landscape to seize higher quality control and throughput, those looking to stay ahead must begin looking for additional ways to outperform the competition.

At Glass Processing Automation Days (GPAD) this year, automation and the implications it has for the future of fenestration revolved around this next step in automated technology. The “Internet of Things” has been a buzzworthy term for a few years, but not without good reason. Connectivity is not a sci-fi fantasy, and it has begun to make a significant impact on industries.

Fenestration professionals have begun to dabble—and early adopters can experience what can happen when their equipment communicates to benefit their business.

What Does the Future Look Like?

But it’s not about simply forcing automation into the way fenestration professionals have always done business. It’s about taking stock of what is possible on your plant floor and using new technologies to make true change for the benefit of your business.

Are you optimizing the high-value parts of your business? Are you allocating your labor the most effective way possible? Is your plant floor layout the most efficient for what your new automated systems have made possible? Are you able to source the right raw materials to keep up with production? Can your shipping operations handle new, higher volumes of product?

These are all questions that must be asked by companies taking the implications of Industry 4.0 seriously, and for those organizations that want to seize market leadership in a changing manufacturing landscape. Of course, seizing all of these new opportunities at once is impossible—the fully automated, fully connected plant does not happen overnight. But taking the right steps—no matter how big or small—forward today can help better equip any organization for the future.

Questions or comments? Contact me directly at mark.yeandle@quanex.com.

For more information about Quanex visit www.quanex.com
Posted: June 13, 2017 by Guest Blogger Filed under: automation, development, industry