Five tech trends that will define manufacturing in 2019
It is perhaps an understatement to suggest that 2018 has been marred by uncertainty – from the lingering unpredictability of Brexit to wider global geopolitical incidents – and 2019 looks to offer much of the same. Despite this, the pace of technological change in the UK has continued mostly unabated and British manufacturers have been tasked to grapple the short-term events whilst harnessing new technology to digitally transform. Indeed, there remains a sense that technology – most notably solutions that can help boost manufacturing productivity – will play a pivotal role in helping the UK adjust to the outcome of Brexit in 2019. It is with this in mind that the following five trends are predicted to define intelligent manufacturing over the next 12 months:
5G is coming
The UK is reportedly lagging behind its European counterparts when it comes to productivity, and improvements to digital infrastructure is one of the key solutions proposed by government. We can expect to hear a lot more about 5G in 2019 as it will underpin the next generation of mobile networks and many think that it will be a key enabler of industry 4.0 in the manufacturing sector – from improving data management to enabling greater collaboration between suppliers and end users. 5G networks will offer manufacturers the chance to build genuinely smart factories with real-time connectivity.
Increasing levels of automation
Everyone has heard of digital transformation, but many are still unsure what it means and how to achieve it. Over the next 12 months and beyond, the businesses that fail to embrace new innovations will struggle to compete. Increasing levels of automation are essential for manufacturers to remain competitive and meet demands for manufactured goods from established and emerging markets. Our recent report Harnessing Brexit, Technology and Insight: British Manufacturers, a Competitive Edge in an Age of Uncertainty and Opportunity has found that a third of the UK’s leading manufacturing executives expect automation to take over British manufacturing in the next three years.
Over the next 12 months, connected systems that leverage the cloud, IoT, AI and machine learning will deliver instant intelligence and play a crucial role in making UK manufacturing smarter and more agile. Our research has found that nearly all manufacturers in Britain (93%) are utilising live data and automation technology already in some capacity, most commonly to help optimise products and ensure quality consistency, and it is expected that this use will become more sophisticated and keenly adopted. Nearly a third (28%) of manufactures predict that technology which analyses big data will play a greater role in their business over the next three years.
- Industry 4.0 and the rise of the ‘smart factory’
- Three ways that edge computing can benefit manufacturing
- 2019: Manufacturing predictions
Adapting to an evolving workforce
As manufacturers face an increasing skills gap in 2019, they must fill critical roles on the front line and in the back office. The skills mix has changed for many manufacturing jobs and there will be even greater emphasis on employees being tech-savvy. Training staff to become more digitally-orientated is crucial, and a culture and perception shift is required amongst many c-suite directors. More will need to be done to ensure that traditional workforces are equipped and ready to excel in this new digital environment. Directors must develop the skills of their staff to envision, educate, explain and execute the digital transformation of their businesses. It’s not just about buying the latest technology, it’s about understanding how the business can benefit from becoming more digital and putting this into action. This requires strong, forward-thinking leadership to drive the changes that are needed.
The growth of e-learning
Developing the skills of this evolving workforce can be supported with the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies to improve training programmes. Employees can learn much of what they need to know without stepping foot on the factory floor, and early adopters of AR and VR have demonstrated the technology delivers value by bridging the skills gap and transforming the way engineers are trained and evaluated.
Manufacturers have no choice but to move with the times. Over the next 12 months, businesses should spend money on innovation (but not just for the sake of it) and invest in technology that resolves problems so that staff can get on with adding value to the organisation. This could include transformation of production processes, optimising sales and marketing or improving customer services. Investment in technology should reflect the competitive strategy of the business. It’s not about buying the latest software, it’s about identifying how you can transform your business model to outcompete your competitors and better serve your customers.
Businesses must also balance the investment in acquiring new talent, including digital natives, with investment in the current workforce. Technology enables businesses to evolve, however talent is required to ensure that this tech is adopted. It is also important to remember that there is no substitute for wisdom in business, and technology cannot replace the fundamentals of management.
Ian Dowd has nearly 20 years’ experience in the technology industry and has held senior marketing positions in global software companies, Cloud and IT Services, social media and start-ups.
An award-winning marketeer and business leader, Ian is CMO of UK-based SaaS provider SSG Insight.
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.