As the pace of innovation continues to accelerate, several overarching trends will drive and shape the precision engineering and manufacturing sector in 2018. We cast the rule over those likely to have the greatest impact.
The importance of robotics and automation
The continuing introduction of robots into the production process will be high on the agenda of many machining manufacturers. The benefits are there for all to see, not least improved safety for workers in hazardous machine production environments. Robotics and automation will also raise profit margins for CNC machining businesses, driven in part by a decrease in down time for costly production operations. In addition, human error will be reduced still further as precision machinery dovetails more effectively with automation and robotics.
Successful manufacturing operations in 2018 will undoubtedly be lean ones, with forward-thinking engineering businesses placing greater emphasis on the optimisation of production by adopting methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma. The upshot is that engineering firms with quality assurance credentials, lean manufacturing capabilities and optimised production systems can head into 2018 with confidence.
Expect demand for environmental engineering skills and services to continue rising as sustainability becomes even more crucial to successful engineering activity. Issues at the forefront of engineering sector development will include energy and resource management, minimising waste in the production process, emissions optimisation, and greater uptake of renewable energy options.
The arrival of Industry 4.0
The fourth industrial revolution, until recently regarded as the stuff of idealism, is increasingly becoming a reality. The harnessing of production movements and technology is expected to make custom machining operations more efficient, with a positive effect on engineering companies’ bottom lines. By changing the way data is gathered and used in precision engineering projects, these new methods will deliver fresh skill-sets that connect digital training with material production. The trend will additionally drive a new approach to human interaction with machines in the production process.
Greater focus on additive manufacturing
The introduction of additive manufacturing will continue to gather momentum in manufacturing and engineering processes. 3D printing has been widely used for prototyping work for some time, but additive manufacturing is now widely integrated into standard production applications; a trend expected to accelerate. Sectors that are especially engaged in additive manufacturing techniques include aerospace, defence, automotive and medical devices.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things will exert a greater influence on engineering production. We expect to see more and more factories capable of inter-networking devices and equipment to drive efficiencies and raise productivity. The ‘smart factory’ concept is enabling new ways of managing manufacturing operations that involve the Internet of Things delivering connectivity between production machinery, CAD/CAM, ERP, and suppliers.