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Smart Manufacturing Becomes Key to Enterprise Survival in Post-Pandemic Era

Published: Aug 18,2020

Integrating smart manufacturing remains the key to enterprise survival in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. In addition to furthering the technical development of AR, teleoperation, and computer vision, smart manufacturing brings about other palpable benefits such as reducing human labor, and thus facilitating social distancing, through the adoption of unmanned transport machines, such as AGV (automated guided vehicles) and AMR (autonomous mobile robots).

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The global smart manufacturing market is expected to reach total revenue of US$400 Billion in 2024, with a 10.1% CAGR during the 2020-2024 period, as advancements in remote and contactless technologies contribute to the bulk of this growth.

TrendForce analyst P. K. Tseng states that various companies have now embraced Industry 4.0 due to the lower manufacturing costs and increased productivity it brings. Given its improved ROI and mature technology, Industry 4.0 achieves these benefits for manufacturers in 2020 by presenting IoT- and big data-integrated solutions through cobots and digital twins via cyber-physical integration.

First introduced in Germany in 2011, Industry 4.0 has seen widespread adoption by various major companies, leading to the gradual maturation of related technologies. According to studies by Ericsson, the deployment of Industry 4.0-based mobile network solutions saves Ericsson an average of about 8.5% in operating costs per year over a five-year-span.

These solutions have been applied by the company in a diverse range of use cases, including asset tracking, AR applications, status monitoring, mobile robots, and connected equipment. Case in point, Ericsson conducts remote troubleshooting and work-related distance learning at its 5G equipment fabs with AR-based solutions.

On the other hand, power management company Eaton is incorporating Industry 4.0 solutions in its fight against the pandemic. Eaton ensures the safety of its employees by empowering them to conduct vital work functions remotely through the use of Microsoft HoloLens 2 AR glasses, which display a 3D image of the physical factory space in real-time without requiring the physical presence of employees. Also using Industry 4.0 solutions for worker safety is Japanese manufacturer Hitachi, which monitors its factory employees with thermographic cameras and keeps track of PPE usage via video surveillance.

The current trend of smart manufacturing in Taiwan indicates that SMEs account for approximately 97% of Taiwan’s manufacturing industry. However, in undertaking digital transformation efforts, these enterprises frequently encounter bottlenecks such as low ROI and a glaring lack of human resources specializing in information technology. As such, smart manufacturing initiatives are generally executed as a joint public-private effort.

For the public’s part, the Taiwanese government is targeting three areas as potential smart manufacturing selling points: the global political economy, industrial trends, and stimulus policies in the post-pandemic era. For instance, the Intelligent Cloud Platform for Machinery Industry that is currently underway is targeted at expediting the progress of smart manufacturing in Taiwan by delivering added value to SME offerings and thereby raising the industry’s global competitiveness.

The recovery of the manufacturing industry in 2021 is dependent on the presence of a more stable and flexible supply chain. In addition to the existing use cases of teleoperation and contactless equipment, companies need to incorporate more Industry 4.0-based technologies, such as IoT sensors and equipment, used to create a virtual copy of the workplace, or blockchain and 3D printing, which can provide additional operational flexibilities. In the post-pandemic era, smart manufacturing is expected to see more use cases and commercial opportunities, strengthening the survivability and profitability of manufacturers in the face of potential future threats.

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