Manufacturing Competitiveness Requires Awareness

  • August 10, 2016
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor,

The pace of manufacturing competition is accelerating the adoption of advanced automation worldwide. The current challenge for manufacturing companies is to understand new industrial automation solutions, developments and technologies, so that they are able to select and apply those that will keep their operations ahead of worldwide competition.  This requires that personnel not only understand the latest technologies available, but also to constantly educate themselves about suppliers that can provide innovative solutions. For example, some of these latest major developments include:

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is a holistic and broad vision that is gaining momentum worldwide. Industry 4.0 calls for the modernization of manufacturing, through the application of technology, in order to improve efficiency and productivity. A driving force of the demand for increased industrial automation is the realization that low labor rates are no longer a winning strategy.   Started in Germany, Industry 4.0 is influencing new manufacturing technology initiatives in a multitude of countries to help meet this demand.  Effectively implementing industrial automation for Industry 4.0, requires leveraging IoT (Internet of Things) technology and communications.

The specific vision of Industry 4.0 is to see significantly higher productivity, efficiency, and self-managing production processes where people, machines, equipment, logistics systems and work-in-process components communicate and cooperate directly with each other.  A major push to that end, is the application of low-cost, mass production efficiencies which can achieve make-to-order manufacturing of quantity through automation.   Production and logistics processes are integrated intelligently across company boundaries, creating a real-time lean manufacturing ecosystem that is more efficient and flexible.

The digitization of industry is forecasted to foster new business models and present great opportunities for enterprises big and small.


The introduction of collaborative robots is broadening automation applications, with flexible solutions that can be implemented with modest capital investments.   This trend is already starting to impact worldwide competition. China, for example, wants to make the leap into the Top 10 of the world's most intensively automated nations by 2020 . By then, its robot density is targeted to rise to 150 units – this being the number of industrial robots per 10,000 employees. With a 2015 robot density of 36 units, China is currently ranked 28th in the world based on the World Robot Statistics, issued by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).   The aim is to increase annual sales of domestically produced industrial robots to 100,000 units by 2020, according to Wang Ruixiang, President of the China Machinery Industry Federation, speaking at the "China International Summit of Robot Industry" in Shanghai. The IFR reported that Asia registered the world's highest robot sales figures for 2015; at 156,000 units, which represented a rise of 16 percent in comparison to the previous year. The region’s largest individual markets were China (67,000 units), followed by South Korea (37,000 units) and Japan (35,000 units). The top-five markets of China, South Korea, Japan, the USA and Germany account for around three quarters of global robot sales.   "Digital information and automation will continue to drive the success story of robotics – it really is a transformation“, says Joe Gemma, President of the International Federation of Robotics. ”It is driven in particular by industry 4.0, the industrial internet of things and services." 

Big Data & Analytics

The advances in computing software and low-cost, powerful computers are making the use of big data, in order to improve manufacturing performance and productivity, attainable for manufacturers of any size.   Automation systems capture a wide range of data, which can be used to improve performance and productivity with the application of analytics.  This analyzed data can be leveraged into real-time predictive maintenance, helping manufacturing companies avoid interruption of production by unplanned machine failures and directly improving asset utilization and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).   Further, this enables the optimization of production machines, in order to run the machines at higher energy efficiency.

The fall of 2016 presents a great opportunity for manufacturing teams to learn about the latest automation and related manufacturing technologies. This September in Chicago, six co-located trade fairs are being held, representing the largest and most comprehensive industrial & manufacturing technology event in the Western Hemisphere. Taking place every two years and featuring 2,000+ exhibiting companies and 110,000+ visitors, the event includes:

The event is September 12th – 17th, 2016 at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL.

Show Organizers

Deutsche Messe

Deutsche Messe AG is one of the world’s largest and most active trade fair companies. Based in Hannover, Germany, the company maintains a network of 64 sales partners, subsidiaries, and branches in over 110 different countries and an exhibition center (Messegelände) with a superb infrastructure totaling 1 million square meters of space.

Deutsche Messe annually produces approximately 100 trade fairs and conferences that host 25,000 exhibiting companies, 2 million visitors, and 15,000 journalists from over 100 countries.  Visit Deutsche Messe’s home page for more information.

The Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT)

Founded in 1902 and based in Virginia, the association specializes in providing targeted business assistance, extensive global support, and business intelligence systems and analysis. AMT is the voice that communicates the importance of policies and programs that encourage research and innovation, and the development of educational initiatives to create tomorrow’s Smartforce. AMT owns and manages IMTS — The International Manufacturing Technology Show, which is the premier manufacturing technology event in North America.

AMT represents and promotes U.S.-based manufacturing technology and its members—those who design, build, sell, and service the continuously evolving technology that lies at the heart of manufacturing.

Learn More

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