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How is technology impacting manufacturing engineering?

02/05/19 Daniel Jump Consultant, Manufacturing & Engineering

Manufacturing engineering is the science behind how a business makes things. Manufacturing engineering or sometimes called production engineering is the processes undertaken by engineers to plan the practices of manufacturing; to research and develop tools, processes, machines, and equipment; and to integrate the facilities and systems for producing quality products with the optimal expenditure of capital. Manufacturing engineers may focus on New Product Introduction (NPI) and/or the design and operation of integrated systems for the production of high-quality economically competitive products, that are often safer, faster, more cost-effective than previous derivatives or competitors offerings.

This is achieved through using robots, automated machinery, material handling equipment, machine tools and computer-aided design (CAD).

The manufacturing or production engineer's primary focus is to turn raw material into an updated or new product in the most effective, efficient and economical way possible. A 'product' is defined as an item that has value added to it during the production process. Value is added by means of processes such as forming, machining, joining, and assembly.

Manufacturing engineers often apply a range of continuous improvement techniques and workplace organisational methodologies known as Lean manufacturing or Lean production.  “Lean” principles aim at eliminating waste through the application of a set of lean techniques. Key lean techniques include just-in-time (JIT), cellular layout, line balancing, error-proofing, quality-at-the-source, 5S, visual aids, and work standards. Other lean techniques include Single Minute Exchange Die (SMED), Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), and Total Quality Management (TQM) Tools. For sustainability, lean techniques application should take place in a continuous improvement "Kaizen" mode.

These techniques and principles of improving overall customer value are often combined with the rise of innovations in technologies such as automation, robotics, computer vision and additive manufacturing.

Daniel Jump, Redline’s Manufacturing and Operations Recruitment Consultant looks at how technology has impacted the world of manufacturing jobs and how it will continue to do so?

As Industry 4.0 continues to spread, forward-thinking engineers will embrace the changes in digital technologies in order to provide a faster service based on meeting consumer demands, thus increasing customer loyalty and gaining market share.

Industry 4.0 — Automation and digitalisation revolution

Industry 4.0 references the growing trend of automation within the manufacturing engineering sector and is being described as the fourth industrial revolution. In Japan and China, there already exists completely unmanned and automated facilities. They have proved that the future of robotics can revolutionise the manufacturing engineering industry in unprecedented ways.

Industry 4.0 typically consists of the following components:

·         Internet of Things (IoT)

·         Big data and analysis

·         Engineering simulation

·         Additive manufacturing

Each of these aspects can have a big impact on engineering design and the future of manufacturing engineering.

IoT and Big Data

IoT uses sensor technology to connect the manufacturing ecosystem through different machines. This allows for real-time communication and transference of data and tracks operational performance. When manufacturing facilities are connected to the internet, they can enable remote monitoring and automation, bypassing manual checks.

While IoT offers communicative services, big data, analytics capture and analyse data through all stages from design through to production. With this, manufacturers can summarise large quantities of data regarding their systems to innovate and increase their efficiency.

Both IoT and big data have multiple uses and can be utilised to increase productivity and reduce the workload of the manufacturing workforce. In addition, these technological advances speed processes and increase production which allows companies to better meet consumer demands.

An example of this is the implementation of the computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) which tracks system maintenance, inspections and breakdowns. This lowers maintenance costs, leads to fewer repairs and records an accurate, historical report of issues in the manufacturing process.

Augmented and virtual reality

It’s now possible to create extremely realistic, to-scale, 3D physically printed, 4D animation and hologram engineering simulations. These can speed up product design processes, reduce the number of iterations and again, shorten the time to market. This leads to the creation of designs which have greater precision and accuracy.

Advancements in computer science and IT have also led to virtual reality (VR) being implemented in carrying out complex tasks. VR Goggles can allow workers to see real-time written instructions and information displayed on the lenses which can instruct them in completing complex tasks.

This is a big advancement from the CAD software most manufacturers rely on for prototyping. Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) can aid not only manufacturing but also the research and development (R&D) team, speeding research times by simulating numerous possibilities and analysing the most viable methods.

Additive manufacturing

A report has found that millennials and Gen Z look for customisation in the products they purchase. With the increasing demand for mass customisation, comes an increase in demand for streamlined manufacturing processes.

Additive manufacturing, which includes 3D printing, allows small and medium items to be printed in full-scale industrial quantities. These quantities can be in accordance with consumer desires and personalised without the significant time and effort that would normally require.

3D printing allows for the mass-production of products that are difficult to create with traditional manufacturing methods. They also provide manufacturers with greater flexibility and save costs on production as well as reduce speed to market. This technology, which is becoming more affordable and accessible, can level the economic playing field and allow smaller companies to innovate and grow.

How is this affecting the workforce?

With new technology advances in manufacturing, there is a greater demand for manufacturing engineers with the right experience and skills who have the ability to adopt digital technologies.

Manufacturers want to retain employees whose jobs may be at risk – 58% plan to re-skill existing employees to work in other parts of the business and 54% plan to up-skill them to work in new job roles that investment in digital technologies and techniques will create.

Almost a third of UK manufacturers expect some manufacturing jobs to be lost over the coming five years as a result of either industry 4.0, artificial intelligence and digital technologies. But more than half say they will up-skill these workers to take the jobs which are more highly skilled with better pay.

Businesses need to ensure they have a comprehensive recruitment strategy to attract, develop and retain talent critical to their manufacturing business in order to grow and innovate.

Manufacturing engineering jobs with Redline

If you’re a qualified manufacturing engineer or production engineer looking to elevate your career, apply to a variety of manufacturing jobs with Redline recruitment.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for talented candidates to fill your vacancies, let us help you in your search. We source, interview and present only the best candidates for the job. Register a vacancy with us or contact us for more information today.

For more information on Redline Group's latest Manufacturing and Operations jobs, please contact Daniel Jump on 01582 878859 or email DJump@redlinegroup.com

Redline has undertaken research into the candidate offer to acceptance ratio for many years. For a copy of our most recent research, and how this may help you reduce “Offer declination”, please click here.