Recab UK: How has 2020 reshaped manufacturing?
In the space of 12 months, industry has changed completely. The way that manufacturers operate has fundamentally changed, bringing in a renewed need for embedded systems that support remote operations and contactless authentication and validation of the workforce. Here, Martin Frederiksen, managing director of , explores how 2020 brought new technologies to manufacturing plants.
Innovation has been long overdue in the manufacturing sector. The better part of the past decade has revolved around introducing greater connectivity into manufacturing plants, under the banner of Industry 4.0. The COVID-19 pandemic that swept across the globe in spring 2020 accelerated this innovation through necessity and, in doing so, introduced a number of new technologies into manufacturing sites.
Several of the innovations that have taken place in manufacturing in the past year have come in unexpected forms. Prior to 2020, most manufacturers tended to think of embedded systems as edge devices on the factory floor to collect and communicate data from processes. Now, we’re seeing wider use of embedded industrial computing for everything from on-site cameras to touchless access interfaces, allowing plants to uphold strict sanitary requirements brought in due to the pandemic.
On-site cameras, for example, were previously only used to monitor premises. Now, they are also used alongside more complex facial recognition algorithms to more accurately track the workforce in the event of an outbreak. The need to quickly process the input data often requires general purpose graphics processing units (GPGPUs), such as the Jetbox-Floyd by our partner Diamond Systems, for faster data and image processing.
The is a complete GPGPU system based on the Floyd carrier board and features an NVIDIA Jetson Nano or NX module, with a Linux operating system pre-configured to support the extensive input/output (I/O) of the Floyd board. The board features two Power over Ethernet (PoE) Gigabit ports, two MIPI/CSI 2/4-lane connectors and one USB 3.0 port that are suitable as camera inputs. MiniCard, M.2 and Micro SD sockets also support I/O expansion and storage, making the board highly versatile. Each of these sockets is brought out by the full-feature Jetbox-Floyd.
To support greater requirements for contactless interfaces, more manufacturers are turning to RFID-enabled systems to improve product traceability and implement unmanned item handling. Here, we have been supporting businesses to enhance their RFID systems with modules such as the Jadak M3e, which supports an extended read distance and features an integrated secure access module (SAM) to secure information.
2020 has also accelerated the move to more autonomous manufacturing operations, which bring greater use of AI and machine learning. These applications require high bandwidth, low latency and powerful computing capabilities, which are best suited to the NVIDIA GPGPUs that feature in several of the GPGPU products from ourselves and our partners. They are also an ideal fit for the real-time computing potential of computer-on-modules (COMs) that use 11th Generation Intel® Core™ processors, such as those by congatec.
The , which were launched by congatec in late 2020, offer significantly greater CPU performance and nearly three times higher GPU performance compared with the previous generation. In addition, the 11th Gen COM series features Intel® Time Coordinated Computing (Intel® TCC) technologies and in-band error correction codes, which help meet the exacting demands of critical real-time computing applications. Since the launch, Recab UK has been applying its and helping UK businesses develop increasingly sophisticated embedded projects that leverage these features.
The years ahead will only see manufacturing become more technologically advanced, with embedded systems continuing to move beyond the production lines and into wider facility applications. The revolution of industry is here at last.
Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers
With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.
While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.
“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.
“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”
Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.
“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.
Technology and People
While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.
“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.
Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.