Rethinking innovation in industrial manufacturing

In industrial manufacturing, innovative ideas turn into physical manifestations of products like cars, smartphones or clean power generators. Maria Adeseun, a Doctoral student in Logistics and Supply Chain at the University of Derby, explores the benefit of such innovation to society.

 

New technologies are driving improvements in industrial manufacturing all the time, as manufacturers turn to new and innovative ideas to keep up with the demands of the marketplace. Their focus is on acquiring the skills they need to produce the level of technologies they want.

The logistics industry is a huge market worldwide and affects the whole of the economy, in sectors ranging from fashion to e-commerce, high tech to manufacturing and many more.

Here are just some of the ways technological innovation is changing the logistics industry:

Automation

Data-driven software is being used to automate processes to improve their efficiency, using machines to do everything from managing storage systems to labelling packages. One example of automation in action is the Port of Rotterdam in Holland, the most advanced port in the world, where machine-controlled terminals use computer-programmed stacking cranes to unload cargoes in ways that increase productivity, improve handling performance and scale-down labour costs.

Robotics

Robots, unlike computerised machines, are designed to accomplish numerous jobs at once, making their application in the logistics industry practically endless. This is particularly true of e-commerce operations, which call for greater speed and skill to meet the pace of online sales. In some companies, robots have almost become the order of the day, completing in under 15 minutes what humans might take 70 minutes to do.

Wearable technology

This will soon become standard in the manufacturing industry. A German pilot study was carried out a few years ago, using technology in manufacturing processes to increase speed and reduce human errors in warehouse order selection methods. Results from the pilot showed that using smart glasses, a type of wearable technology, improved employee effectiveness by 25%.

Autonomous vehicles

Many logistics companies have been successful in promptly adopting autonomous vehicles, thanks to the minimal regulations and easy-to-deal-with environments provided by spaces like stores and courtyards.

Autonomous vehicles will soon become commonplace, as semi-autonomous cars are already on our highways, and it is believed that autonomous long-distance trucks will present fewer traffic jams than passenger cars. With the help of autonomous vehicles, people won’t have to drive to deliver goods any more – all that will be needed is adequate loading and computation.

Cloud computing

Moving to the ‘cloud’ will become a necessity for companies in a wide range of industries. It has numerous important benefits, including the capability to offer better after-sales management and free access to information. The key benefit for many firms will be the decrease in costs realised once the need for a physical presence in every region is removed.

Cloud computing usually provides effective and flexible options for the industry. Flexport, a San Francisco-based company which moves freight globally by air, sea, rail and truck, made use of innovative methods to cut their business charges and expenses, and increase transparency.

Internet of Things

This allows physical items to connect to devices across the internet. It can be used in various ways within industry, ranging from temperature and moisture devices that monitor supply chain quality regulators, to machines that can sense when a package is being altered. Research has estimated that by 2020, over 50 billion objects will be connected to the internet, compared to the five billion currently connected.

Linking aspects of manufacturing and logistic procedures like this creates an environment for enhanced communication, with individuals, machines, logistics methods and task supervision all interconnected through the Internet of Things.

The role of artificial intelligence

Technical knowhow is scarce and companies are struggling to pay high tech experts, while the demand for faster and more technologically advanced goods is ever-increasing. Artificial intelligence can help to deal with these shortcomings and allow businesses to be more efficient.

Firms in every part of the supply chain are seeing artificial intelligence as the best way of refining their processes, introducing automation to help them cut their labour expenditures and increase their level of accuracy and transparency.

In the field of e-healthcare, artificial intelligence is helping to improve people’s quality of life. New medical research has proposed an emotion recognition system using facial images and a smart sensing system. The system detects human emotions based on information obtained from sensors, which monitor heart rate, skin conductance and skin temperature, with an algorithm created to automatically recognise emotions.

The future of innovation

It’s time for us to envision a world where innovative ideas become the order of the day, and where those same ideas positively affect manufacturing in our industries. Robots will soon start taking over certain jobs, because they do things faster and don’t break down – but hopefully, this shouldn’t be happening in the next 10 years.

So, let’s not just sit and fold our arms, waiting for miracles to happen. Let’s get up, get out of our comfort zone and ensure our industries are filled with the latest technology and innovation, making the world a better place!

 

For further press information please contact the Corporate Communications Team on 01332 591891, pressoffice@derby.ac.uk or @derbyunipress

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