By Joanne Moretti
As one of the largest manufacturers in the world, we take our role in the industry very seriously. The brands we work with expect us to be on top of the latest technologies and trends and right now they are asking us about our industry 4.0 in terms of our Smart Factory journey. But for us it’s not just about leading from the front, it’s about taking those enabling technologies, exploring what they can do throughout the whole product lifecycle, and ensuring they can be used reliably on an industrial scale.
There is a group of exciting technologies that are likely to have a real impact on manufacturing in the coming years. Some will help us achieve the objectives of the forth industrial revolution, others could fundamentally impact upon the way products are discovered, developed, designed and delivered. Choosing the right technologies to use is no simple task, especially when you consider the mission critical nature of many of the products we produce. Engineering rigor plays a huge part in selecting which processes will find its way into our factories. We have more than fifty years of manufacturing experience and have learned that there is more to applying a new technology than simply buying the latest equipment. Our teams work hard to ensure the techniques we use are repeatable, reliable and robust. We don’t use technology for its own sake, we need to be sure it adds value for us and for our clients.
I can’t remember a time when there was so much disruption for our customer and for us. It’s both exciting and unnerving for the industry as we negotiate our way through the choppy waters of digital transformation. We’ve always embraced change and now is no different.
Our commitment to the digital thread throughout our business has already reaped benefits for our customers and we are able to share technology advances and support them as their industries change radically. Retail, Healthcare, Automotive, Apparel and just about every other industry is changing in ways never imagined, both in the products delivered and in how they are realized. We are committed to helping those industries find the best solutions from ideation to delivered solution by being the smartest partner in the industry.
Here are a few of the key technologies we’re using to fuel our own industrial revolution:
Augmented Reality (AR)
The days of using our tools to simply affect our will have gone and we are now moving into an augmented age where rather than just use our tools, we are working with them to achieve more than ever before. Many of the technologies mentioned below augment our performance, some intellectually and some physically. Within the term Augmented Reality we are bringing together virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality to deliver whatever is needed to ensure the process can be performed better, more robustly, most efficiently and in a repeatable, reliable manner.
We are using VR tools like the Microsoft HoloLens to accelerate the ideation phase of products, sharing designs and ideas over physical distances and reducing the need to manufacture multiple iterations of prototypes. These tools also have applications in equipment maintenance and can allow engineers to troubleshoot remotely.
We are expecting VR to find more applications in our business, and with Jabil Optics being closely involved in the development of VR equipment, we find ourselves at the vanguard of this technology as a developer, a manufacturer and a user.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
This really is the big one! Many of the tools discussed here provide the brawn for the digital transformation of the manufacturing industry, but AI provides the brains. AI is one of the game-changers in almost every industry and is developing at an alarming rate. Machine learning is achieving more every day, getting smarter than even the most optimistic experts expected. AI, along with personal assistants like Alexa and Siri, is finding its way into our day-to-day lives and that will happen in the factory too.
According to Forrester, AI investment grew three-fold in 2017. A PwC survey found business leaders believe AI is going to be fundamental in the future, with 72% describing it as a “business advantage.” AI has a huge role to play throughout the value chain and the digital thread connects every stage. Design techniques that use AI to assist designers are already being trialed. Some companies are using AI to identify market trends and product demand. AI is the only way to manage the huge amount of data collected by the smart manufacturing equipment and software in which we have invested. And AI has a huge amount to offer the complex supply chains of now and the future.
Robots and Cobots
We love robots, whether it’s hosting kids from local schools at the “Robot Block Party” at our Blue Sky Center in San Jose, or working with the world’s leading robotic companies to industrialize their solutions in an SMT environment.
Cobots, or collaborative robots, are part of the movement to a more augmented age, delivering a flexible workforce that augments the fantastic skills our more than 150,000 staff have with automated skills to make them even more effective.
According to International Federation of Robotics (IFR), by 2019, more than 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world.