Tipping Point

2016 will see hype and expectation start to become firm factory-floor realities, predicts Cathie Hall of K3 Syspro.

To see the future of manufacturing, spend some time on YouTube. YouTube??? That’s right—because that’s the easiest place to find fascinating videos showcasing some of the exciting technologies that are re-writing the art of the possible.

‘Cobots’, for instance, designed to work closely alongside humans in a shared workspace—building complicated assemblies, perhaps, or performing heavy lifting. Or today’s generation of Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs), which are a far cry from the clunky beasts of the 1990s. Or additive manufacturing, creating components and even entire products, ‘on the fly’.

Then there’s a collection of information technologies, loosely bracketed under the Industry 4.0 banner: the Internet of Things, Big Data, and advanced analytics. Plus what’s being termed ‘SMAC’—a fusion of Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud technologies.

Few, if any, of these technologies are new, but they are still failing to gain mainstream mass adoption.

But all of that is set to change, says Cathie Hall, managing director of ERP provider K3 Syspro. Quite simply, she says, the smart money is backing 2016 to be the tipping point—the year that mass adoption does begin to happen.

“I think we’ll look back and see 2016 as the year that the mood changed,” she says. “You can see it happening already, among the manufacturers who we talk to. There’s a sense that the time has come to stop watching from the sidelines, and actually get to grips with these technologies. So companies which have been thinking about it are now looking at pilot projects, and those with pilot projects are scaling up and incorporating them into day-to-day operations.”

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