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Live blog coverage from the IFS World Conference 2018 breakout session, “10 manufacturing buzzwords that you need to pay attention to today and tomorrow.”

Antony Bourne, Vice President of Global Industry Sales at IFS, gave us 10 buzzwords he thought are — or, in some cases, could — impact manufacturing.

1. Smart Factory/Industry 4.0

Everyone’s heard this term because it’s been talked about until the cows come home. But only one person in the room has actually done a project. It’s not an “off the shelf” technology — it’s a set of technologies you can apply to your business. You get progressively smarter as you add technologies.

2. Robotic process automation

This is the process of automating business processes. Across the enterprise using software robots. Some people are seeing payback on these projects in 9 months. That’s phenomenal. It’s more than just robotics – it includes AI, blockchain and IoT. We’re not making ourselves redundant yet – even if work can be done by robots, we still need humans to program, manage and run them.

3. Internet of Things (IoT)/Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

From a manufacturing point of view, people always talk about IoT in the field. If I’m a manufacturer, I might not have anything in the field. What value is this to me? Well, you can connect to the historical data machines generates, analyze it – and make decisions about maintenance off the back of it. You’ve got the machines. You’ve got the software. Join them together.

4. Servitization

It’s moving from selling a product to selling a capability. In certain US States, there are laws that state if you sell over a certain volume of cans, you have to have recycling facilities on site. Tomra will sell you the capability to recycle those cans, but you openly pay per can. No upfront investment. And I only pay if my customers actually use it. Tomra can swap the machines at will because the supermarket isn’t paying for the machine, but the service. And the devices are IoT connected so they can monitor cans collected, and dispatch collection when it’s needed. The biggest challenge? Their sales guys were incentivized on sales. They had to change their compensation model.

5. Additive manufacturing or 3D printing

Yes, it’s over-hyped, but it is delivering disruption. It has not taken off to the degree it could — yet. The amount of pre-processing and post-processing is still taking too long, so the cost-benefit is not yet there. Aviation and defense (A&D) are leading the way on this. You can create the same functional part – but lighter.

10 manufacturing buzzwords that you need to pay attention to today and tomorrow

6. Artificial intelligence (AI)

We’ve all heard about it. We’ve all read about it. But how can it be used? Demand forecasting? It would help demand-driven MRP better. There’s some good work being done here.

7. Machine learning

This is a field of computing that uses statistical techniques to give computers the ability to “learn”. It’s another tool for improving forecasting.

8. Augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR)/mixed reality (MR)

AR has obvious benefits in maintenance, allowing the engineer to access and view information about what he’s seeing. But in manufacturing, you could look at a machine, and see critical information within your field of view. We’re working with partners on this.

9. Blockchain

People talk about it in the supply chain. Maybe. Is it good enough yet to provide the ROI for traceability? It has to prove itself more than hype – but that proof could come at any time.

10. Technological unemployment

When you apply new technology, people will get fired. But historically, that’s not been the case. Yes, some jobs go, but brand new ones emerge. By 2020 AI could be a positive net job motivator.

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