Although slower in its approach to changes, the manufacturing industry in this digital age also suffers the need to digitally transform itself – otherwise, it will be left behind as other industries have already progressed to this phase.
Once upon a time the Industrial Revolution happened and changed the manufacturing industry completely. It transitioned it from manufacture (Latin: manu factum – made with hands) to factory by adding steam power and machines as new production methods. Then Henry Ford brought mass production. Over the years these two revolutions, besides changing the manufacturing industry, changed all other aspects of life and business.
They enabled mass consumers with little income to buy various mass-produced goods for a cheap price – from cars and TVs to refrigerators and electric ovens. In the end, creating almost five billion mobile phone users and three-quarters of a population with access to computers, all connected through the IoT. This gave birth to another revolution. The digital revolution.
Today, the situation has changed. The advent of numerous connected platforms and devices already transformed most of the other industries and is the driving force behind the digital transformation of the manufacturing industry. The expectations of the consumers changed and with it the entire supply chain. As different manufacturers must co-depend on one another, even those manufacturers who don’t make consumers goods experienced and impact from these consumer changes.
Every manufacturing industry has been impacted
Although broad, with numerous small-time manufacturers and giant multinationals, every part of the manufacturing industry will have to go through a digital transformation to better answer the needs of its customers. This is no different for the gas and oil sector.
Resource exploration industry was less likely to consider digitalization, but even big and well-established companies in the filed are moving towards it. The main reason behind was that digitalization allows the gas and oil sector enhanced efficiency, cost-reduction and in later stages innovation and streamlining the entire process.
The industry is already experiencing this with oil extraction companies implementing e-commerce solutions into the manufacturing process to better keep up with the latest technology. Oilfield products are available online, reducing the maintenance cost and unplanned downtime for essential equipment on the field.
Not only that, but big data and analytics are making an entrance, as using a digital platform to measure, track, and manage all the information coming from all operations and departments across the oilfield allows oil and gas companies to gain much-needed insight. Ultimately maximizing output and quality while minimizing waste production and lowering production costs.
The age of robots has begun
In the age’s past, robots were used to do repetitive and tedious tasks on the assembly line. Nowadays robots have advanced to the degree that they can mimic complex human traits such as agile movement and task-related memory, which increased their value in the manufacturing industry. As being collaborative and highly trained, robots can create a safer working environment by trading places with humans in different unsuitable or dangerous tasks. For example, remotely controlled autonomous dump trucks are being used in mining operations, eliminating the danger for human drivers.
Additionally, robots come equipped with sensors that provide valuable feedback and data. Sensors being smart machines that can “speak” with the control board, easily identifying and resolving mechanical problems, thus increasing the company’s accuracy in making necessary adjustments in real time. They can replace human hands on the assembly line, which results in less wasted materials and time and better optimization of workflow and accuracy.
Automated technology and robots are also a crucial component for any manufacturing company trying to increase efficiency and minimize delays. They enable optimization of production workflow, Work in progress, inventory and value chain decisions. Integration of IT systems allows various teams across the platform to easily access relevant data and to communicate and collaborate more quickly and transparently.
Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence
The ability of machines to learn and mimic human behavior is nothing new. A decade has passed since IBM’s supercomputer defeated the best human chess player in the world, changing the relationship between machines and people for years to come.
Nowadays, these advanced algorithms are changing how manufacturing performs skilled labor, collects information and predicts customer behavior. They translate into a more accessible user experience with high technology, leading to better internal control and review of data. Integrated IT systems in small factories are providing crucial data to both sides of the supply chain more readily, increasing the capacity of production by 20%. Being more efficient no longer requires a sacrifice in quality, as machine learning programs can determine which factors can impact production and service quality.
The need for digital transformation has never been so intense and the companies which strive to use technological advancements as their competitive edge are the ones who will continue to thrive and move forward in the current competitive environment.