At the time of writing this article, I was in Hannover, Germany, visiting the EMO Exhibition. Under the banner of ‘The Future of Business’, EMO is the world’s largest machinery technology exhibition, with 1,850 exhibitors from 42 countries.

AMTIL had a stand in the International Association pavilion alongside 26 other national associations from around the world, forming an excellent network of global machine tool and manufacturing technology bodies. One of our activities each year is a half day ‘General Managers’ meeting where all countries discuss a particular topic given to us. This year the subject was – Impact of New and Enabling Technologies.

Below is a summary of these discussions. The conversation went from traditional manufacturing to new and finally emerging technologies. We live in a world of acronyms so I will explain some of them for the uneducated!

Traditional manufacturing covered off CNC machining, robotics and automation, controls, lean manufacturing, six sigma, lights out machining, etc, etc. The focus was on fast spindle speeds, quick changeover time, high productivity and sustainability. I won’t delve too deeply into this area as the majority of our readers are in this space and know it better than me. Needless to say, being labelled as a “traditional manufacturer” is not a bad thing and certainly not a reason to change. However, being aware of new and emerging technologies is a must see and how it will impact a traditional business is also worthy of exploration.

New technologies probably focused on what was new over the past few years so included amongst other things mobility technologies, manufacturing as a service, materials science, additive manufacturing, 3D simulation, ICME (Integrated Computational Materials Engineering), digital manufacturing, industrial internet of things, Industry 4.0 and the list goes on. Mobility technologies is an interesting one as it encompasses everything from tablets and phone apps on the factory floor to connected and self driving vehicles and every other way that information and products can be mobilised. Additive manufacturing has been around for a long time and it can be argued whether it fits into this category but recent advancements in 3D printing of metal in a production capacity rather than a prototyping technique lands it here. There is no doubt we are living in a data driven world and the impact that Industry 4.0 and IIoT are having in areas such as predictive maintenance, are significant. There is so much to learn and explore – far too much to try and explain on one page – I am merely sowing the seed for what might be looked in to. The focus here is on smart manufacturing, data analysis, processes improvement and not to be afraid to look at whether there is a better way to make something. I may be overstating things but companies that have taken steps in this space could be labelled as an “advanced manufacturer”.

Emerging technologies is a never ending list as by the time you read this there will be a myriad of other names to look into. But let’s start with AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning), HPC (high performance computing), AR (augmented reality), drones, blockchain, cobots, virtual reality, low code or no code platforms, RPA (robotic process automation), embedded sensing controls, 5G networks, edge computing, quantum mechanics and, definitely, cyber security. Try and wrap your head around any or all of those! And if you have gone down any of these paths and implemented change I think you can call yourself a “manufuturer” – a manufacturer for the future. By the way, I would love to hear from you if you are, as these are the good news stories we want as editorial in this magazine.

Finally, taking all of these traditional, new and emerging technologies into account we also need to take into consideration today’s industry issues such as the circular economy, carbon neutral requirements, Smart and Green Manufacturing and ecodesign. In fact, a new International Standard ISO14955 has been updated with the heading Design Methodology for Energy Efficient Machine Tools. Sustainable competitiveness is one key to the future. As I said at the start, the world of manufacturing is evolving very fast, so try and keep up if you can.