Technological advancements across the manufacturing industry create innovations that will enhance production and improve sustainability.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred the manufacturing industry to look for ways to maintain productivity with a reduced workforce. The industry also wants to achieve clean sector growth, depending on new technologies that support low-carbon energy delivery.
Industrial automation, smart factories, additive manufacturing, and artificial intelligence (AI) are just a few innovation trends coming our way.
Additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3D printing, has been revolutionary. The basic principle of additive manufacturing technology is that it uses a computer-aided design (CAD) generated 3D model directly to fabricate a three-dimensional object by adding layer-upon-layer of material until completion. This technology is now moving into food manufacturing and is anticipated to become more and more common throughout the industry over the next few years. The benefits of additive manufacturing include reducing waste and speeding up the production of products. However, the technology is still new and can be expensive to purchase, configure, and maintain.
Industrial automation uses various equipment and control systems to handle processes and machinery. The original purpose of automation was to increase production and reduce staffing costs as automated systems can work 24 hours a day. Now, the focus on using automation has shifted to improving the quality and flexibility of the manufacturing process. Robots and machinery decrease the chances of errors and because they are programmed to perform tasks, they can effectively do anything, providing more flexibility. Industrial automation makes the production line safer for workers too as they can perform the more hazardous tasks. Whilst the initial cost of switching to an automated system can be high, employees will eventually obtain new skill sets, and overall production will increase. As a result, industrial automation is becoming more accepted across various manufacturing industries.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly popular across most industries. AI improves a variety of manufacturing operations. For example, AI software can rapidly process and analyse vast amounts of data and then produce insights into production optimisation, maintenance scheduling, quality improvement, and inventory management. Though employees may worry that AI and automation could put their jobs at risk, the technology is proven to make their job safer and more manageable. Plus, introducing AI can provide opportunities for staff to move into new roles and learn new skills.
The food manufacturing industry is changing considerably with various unique innovations interjected, with sustainability and plant-based lifestyles being at the forefront.
High-Pressure Processing (HPP) can reduce waste by extending the shelf life of products without compromising the taste or quality. This process involves foods sealed in packaging and placed into a high isostatic pressure environment transmitted by water; this incapacitates the micro-organisms that cause food to become dangerous for consumption.
Another innovation focused on sustainability is lab-grown meat, created from stem cells that have been taken from donor livestock and then cultured in a lab for several weeks. This innovation may revolutionise the meat industry and change the supply chain for the agricultural community.
Green proteins are becoming increasingly popular, following a growing number of people choosing a plant-based lifestyle for ethical and economic reasons. However, meat substitutes won’t be stopping at plant-based proteins; the introduction of insect-based proteins could become the next big trend in creating sustainable food. Insect-based proteins are already used in other countries, but now UK companies are exploring this innovation.
We live in an era of constant revolution; therefore, being adaptable is a crucial element to success. Product and process innovation in manufacturing has been everchanging for decades. As research and technology improve, we will see further technological advancements in the future. It’s an exciting time to work in the manufacturing industry, and we’re intrigued to observe the exciting innovations that will develop going forward.