If you think about the objectives of industry, producing goods efficiently and as cheaply as possible has to be high up the list and, thanks to developments over the past 100 years, businesses are able to produce cheaper products. The availability of lower-priced products is of obvious benefit to the consumer, but being able to make goods at a lower cost enables businesses to maximise their own profitability. 

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The production of goods has changed beyond all recognition compared to what it was 100 years ago and in common with so many leaps in human progress throughout history technology and the development of new techniques has been a key factor in the extent to which industry has been transformed.

The assembly line has long been a key component of manufacturing, allowing businesses to assemble products from work station to work station in less time and in a way that uses less labour. In the early decades of the 20th century, the assembly line concept was honed by the likes of Ford Motor Company, with an increasing emphasis on automation.

Assembly lines have more recently been transformed by the increasingly availability of robots.  Robotics enable greater speed, efficiency and repeatability on the factory floor. Some of the technologies transforming production in the 21st century include:

Nanotechnology 

Seen by some as the technology of the future, nanotechnology is already having a huge impact.  Nanotechnology enables super precise manufacturing through the manipulation of matter. The ways in which nanotechnology is already being applied include faster computer processing times, bandages that allow wounds to heal faster, and clothes that last longer.

Nanotechnology will start to play a key role across all industries and the preciseness associated with it is sure to assist businesses in their efforts to control costs.

Internet of things 

The internet of things (IoT) allows devices connected to the internet to communicate with each other in real time. In this way, it becomes possible to immediately identify flaws and errors in the production process before they have begun to cost the business.

Think about how much time can be saved in being able to immediately identify a failure. The reduction in waste and increases in overall quality promised by IoT technology will have a huge impact on the effort of businesses to control their cost base.

Winsome and Diamond Jewellery (WDJ) is a good example of a company involved in production – in its case the manufacture of diamonds and jewellery. WDJ is a company that blends modern technology with traditional methods to good effect.

WDJ employs the Lost-Wax Process of art metal casting to make gold jewellery. The use of the Lost-Wax Process can be dated as far back as the 3rd millennium BC. However, the company relies on modern technology and machinery to ensure product design accuracy and, at the same time, minimise wastage.

Making products at a lower cost can help a business attract more customers, of course, but cheaper manufacturing processes helps a business to maximise its own efficiency and control its own cost base. Just ask someone like WDJ Chairman Jatin Mehta about the importance of efficiency in production lines and you will quickly discover how critical it actually is.

Efficiency on the factory floor has been boosted by developments in so-called lean manufacturing.  Lean means using fewer resources to create greater value for the customer. A key component of lean systems is the elimination of waste. The objective is to manage waste along an entire value stream and not only at individual points in the system. The outcome of lean should be processes that use up less space, capital, time, and even human effort to deliver products at a lower cost to customers.

You could say that lean manufacturing is less about technology and more about common sense, but technology has a key role to play in the development and implementation of lean systems. If you think about all of the data that has to be collected and analysed to develop successful lean processes, then the importance of information technology becomes apparent.

Not only does IT help support such systems as automation, but it can also be used to achieve better data management and thus eliminate that data which leads to inconsistent and inefficient production processes.

From lean techniques to the use of robots, the efficiency of manufacturing has utterly transformed over the past century and technology will undoubtedly continue to impact on the industry landscape in the years ahead as businesses strive to make their operations more efficient and more profitable.

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