Manufacturing Day Spotlights a Robust Sector

On this year’s Manufacturing Day, the sector is reinventing itself by adopting advanced technology that seemed like science fiction just a few short years ago.

This year, Manufacturing Day comes at a time when the sector is absorbing a wide range of new technology. Manufacturing has been transformed in just a few short years by technology leaps that include: the Internet of Things; affordable human-friendly robotics; autonomous mobile robots; 3D printing that is finally production-ready; predictive maintenance; and Big Data analytics. On the horizon, we’re seeing the emergence of augmented reality, generative design, Blockchain, and the complete integration of design, simulation, and manufacturing. These technologies are no longer science fiction. They’re getting deployed in factories large and small across the world.

HP, 3D printing, metals printing, additive manufacturin
HP designed the HP Metal Jet to be a fast additive manufacturing production machine. (Image source: HP)

While technology has given manufacturing a powerful boost in recent years, the general view of the sector is often distorted. While young people are well attuned to consumer technology, for example, they seem to be unaware of the technological leaps in industrial settings. They tend to think of plants as dark, dangerous, and backward. Today’s advanced manufacturing is anything but that.

Attitudes on Manufacturing

Last week, Thomas—a product sourcing and supplier selection company—released results from its “Manufacturing Perception Report.” The survey examined Americans view of the manufacturing industry from careers to automation. While a majority of respondents said they were familiar with manufacturing (76%), the survey reveals that Americans are largely unaware of the robust state of manufacturing. “We were surprised to see that half of the respondents think that the US manufacturing industry is either “stable but weak” or “in decline,”  Tony Uphoff, CEO and president of Thomas, told Design News. "I’ve been fortunate to speak with hundreds of manufacturing professionals at local Thomas events across the country, and they all say some version of the same thing: 'Business is very good, but we're struggling to find more people to handle the work.” Perhaps it’s too easy for the average American to tune out all the good news that’s been coming out of the sector in recent months.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • Generational Divide: Baby boomers (52%) and Gen X (50%) feel the quality of US products is superior, whereas Millennials (47%) and Generation Z (43%) think the quality of products is typically the same. Even so, there is a strong affinity for American-made products, with 61% of respondents preferring products made in America.
  • National Security: 51% of respondents say the manufacturing sector is very important to national security. A combined total of 87% of respondents think the manufacturing sector is at least somewhat important to national security.
  • Automation Impact: When asked which industries will be impacted most by automation, manufacturing took the lead (34%) followed by transportation (15%), retail (11%), and fast food (10%). When asked about the biggest problem facing the manufacturing sector, over one-third of respondents said ‘robotics and automation.’
  • Industry to Pursue: Two-thirds of respondents say they are very likely/somewhat likely to encourage someone in the workforce to pursue a career in manufacturing. In addition, half of respondents think of the manufacturing industry as high-tech.

Comic Book App Attracts Future Talent

PTC has collaborated with the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute and Rockwell Automation to create a comic book with an augmented reality (AR) experience. Using the free comic book and app, Manufacturing Day host companies can illustrate the technologies of modern manufacturing to help inspire a new generation to consider the field as an innovative and exciting career option. Here’s a video demo of the AR comic book.

comic book, PTC, Rockwell, manufacturing
PTC and Rockwell Automation have created an augmented reality comic book to demonstrate the principles of manufacturing. (Image source: PTC)

“With a major skills gap threatening the viability of the manufacturing industry, a new generation of workers is required, proficient in modern business principles and next-gen technologies like AR and the Industrial Internet of Things,” Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO of PTC, said in a statement. “It is our goal to foster the adoption of these manufacturing technologies and increase the business use cases throughout the industry.”

HP Launches 3D Metal Printer for Production

At the International Manufacturing Technology Show last month, HP created show buzz by unveiling the HP Metal Jet. The printer is designed for high-volume manufacturing of production-grade metal parts. HP claims the printer will provide up to 50 times more productivity at a significantly lower cost than other 3D printing methods. Customers placing orders for the new printer, which will deliver in 2019, include Volkswagen, Wilo, Primo Medical Group, and OKAY Industries.

HP is also offering the printer as a service, launching Metal Jet Production Service. The service is designed to help companies iterate new 3D part designs and produce final parts in volume. “We are in the midst of a digital industrial revolution that is transforming the $12 trillion manufacturing industry. HP helped lead this transformation with the 3D mass production of plastic parts, and we are now doubling down with metals 3D printing technology,” said Dion Weisler, CEO and president of HP, in a statement.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

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