The term “manufacturing” refers to all activities applied in the processing and preparation of finished goods from raw materials and other commodities. It is a broad term that comprises a wide range of industries. Some of these industries include the apparel industry, chemical industry, electronic, metal industry, food processing, furniture, leather, and lumber industries (Tsui, 2005).
The apparel business involves making new clothes from materials such as leather, fur, rubberized fabrics, and even plastics. However, this category does not include the textile industry that involves a lot of knitting. The chemical industry includes all products that are manufactured by mixing various chemicals. Electronic business is involved in manufacturing all types of machinery used in the generation, storage, conduction, and utilization of electric current. Metal businesses use all types of metals to make finished goods (The international journal of advanced manufacturing technology, 2005).
These products may include cans, tins cutlery, non-electric heating apparatus as well as a wide range of utensils. Food business implies the processing of food products and beverages. These may include juices, chewing gums, sweets, vegetable fat, animal feeds among others. The furniture industry is concerned with the production of all home accessories and office equipment such as tables, chairs, beds, wardrobes, cabinets among others. Finally, the machinery industry deals with the manufacture of all heavy machinery such as motor vehicles, tractors, computers among others (The international journal of advanced manufacturing technology, 2005). The leather industry is concerned with turning pure leather into finished products such as human garments and shoes.
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Trends in the Manufacturing Industry
Market demand has pushed current trends in the manufacturing industry. This has seen manufacturing industries move to produce varied products that can meet business needs. This has also been pushed by the current level of literacy among consumers that has led to high demand for quality goods. Therefore, any company that compromises the aspect of quality finds itself in a crisis (Manufacturing business technology, 2005). This has consequently led to industries improving their production technology. The introduction of modern technology has improved efficiency in the areas of production, packaging, storage, and distribution. Therefore, it is clear that the main trend in the manufacturing industry is the use of modern technology to hasten production.
This being the 21st century, any business with the aim of succeeding in the manufacturing industry must embrace modern technology in production. The technologies being used in the manufacturing industry magnify the efforts of workers making each worker produce more within a short time. At the same time, this has seen all raw materials being processed with little waste. In addition, this has met almost all human basic needs since all that man needs to survive is in the business (Manufacturing business technology, 2005).
In addition, the use of modern technology in production has led to the growth and expansion of the economy because of the reduced cost of production of quality goods that fetch good prices in the market. Modern technology has facilitated the diversification of various sectors of the economy. This is evident in sectors such as agriculture, information, transport, medical field, and space exploration.
This can only be understood if one imagines how the world would look like without modern technology being applied in the manufacturing sector. The quality of agricultural production would worsen. There would be no quality machinery to improve transport and communication network (Wang, 2011). There would be no drugs to cure deadly diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular infections. In short, the absence of modern technology in the manufacturing sector would greatly affect the quality of life.
The general tools being used in the manufacturing sector include machine tools and other related equipment. Machine tools are usually big and non-portable. They are power-driven and perform a wide range of activities in the manufacturing sector. Related equipment is mainly computer-aided designs and computer-aided manufacturing (Wang, 2011). These are machines that are operated with the help of computers.
Advantages of Modern Technology in Manufacturing Industry
One of the advantages of modern technology in the manufacturing industry is reduced cycle time. This only means the time is taken to produce, package, and store or distribute a commodity. With improved technology, it is fast to produce large quantities of products, since there are very little manual efforts and a lot of machine work. The machines are then applied in packaging. This is done by presetting the computer to control the machines on the expected quantity. Modern storage facilities also enable preserving the products for long terms. The warehouses and transportation lorries are refrigerated such that finished goods remain fresh (International Institution for Production Engineering Research, 2008).
In addition, modern technology in the manufacturing industry has led to market share growth. This has been as a result of improved quality and modern means of transportation. The goods are manufactured and packaged in quality materials and there are transportation means that can reach far and wide within a short time. This contributes to business expansion since the goods can compete favorably.
Application of technology in production has led to progress towards zero defects since little or no human involvement in the process results in minimization of errors. The probability of a machine error is minimal since it strictly operates as per the instructions given to it. Finally, technology makes the firm focus on production rather than other issues that would have emerged in the absence of technology. These include errors and the time taken to correct them.
The Scope of Technology Application in the Manufacturing Industry
Throughout the years, the aspect of production has been evolving. This has resulted in the development of automotive manufacturing technology (AMT). AMTs include computer-driven technologies such as computer-aided design (CAD); computer-aided engineering (CAE), Flexible manufacturing systems (FMS), and computer-aided process planning among others (Manufacturing Business Technology, 2001).
These are modern means of technologies that are applied in production on day to day basis. In an industrial setting, modern technology is applied in removing materials. This is seen in processes such as sawing, milling, tapping. Drilling, grinding, electrical discharge, broaching, water jet cutting equipment, turning among others. These are manual processes that require a lot of human efforts but within modern technology, they can be performed easily (International Institution for Production Engineering Research, 2008).
Technology is also applied when materials are formed. The processes that involve material formation are joining one or two things to make a whole product, hydro-forming, stamping, shearing, pressing, bending, cold, and hot forming process among many others. These processes involve bringing different components together to make one finished good. They are common in all types of manufacturing industries such as food processing, textile, and vehicle assembly. In all these processes, what was initially done by a number of workers is now done by machines.
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Technology is also applied in additive processes. These are the processes that involve the production of large amounts of documents. Among them are 3D printing, rapid prototyping, and laser sintering. Typing that earlier took long to complete can nowadays take a short time and errors are minimal. Industries that are involved in mass printing, such as print media houses and publishers can now apply 3D printing for quality and fast printing (Manufacturing Business Technology, 2001).
In addition, technology is applicable to all production processes that involve material handling. This is seen in conveyors, die handling equipment, pallet changers, robots, automated wire-guided vehicles among others. These modern technologies have eased the handling process. Companies do not now depend on human labor to transport goods from one place to another. Loading and offloading of goods has also improved. Various production processes such as bottling, sorting, and blending can be made using these technologies.
The Magnitude of Technology Use in Manufacturing Industry
The use of automation has been on the rise in many industries. The use of robots was initially applied in car production. The robots would be programmed with particular instructions and they would assemble vehicles as per the instructions. However, this technology has spread to other factories over the years. Robots are commonly used in mechanical industries, laboratories, hospitals, energy plants, and warehouses. They have been applied in production areas where activities are repetitive. However, this has also created a higher demand for workers with high experience because robots need a lot of supervision. (Journal of manufacturing technology management, 2007).
In the manufacturing sector, technology use can be divided into the following categories:
Product Design Technology (PDT)
This is the technology that focuses on design, definition, and other features of the product. It defines the shape, color, and size of the product. They are computerized machines that produce goods as per the specified features (International Institution for Production Engineering Research, 2010). These technologies include CAD, CAE, and other computerized drafting technologies.
Process Technologies (PT)
This technology handles the process aspect of the product. They are mainly fixed on the floor and they coordinate different processes that are involved in the production process. They get information from computers that are operated by people. Examples of these technologies are CNC, CAM, computerized controllers, and FMS (Journal of manufacturing technology management, 2007).
Logistics/ Planning Technologies (LPT)
These are the technologies that control the material flow. They make sure that materials flow systematically from the time raw materials are acquired to the time the end product is delivered. They make sure that the logistical information is safely kept and flows as planned. Some of these technologies range from the hardware and software system of production which contains coded instruction to floor control systems, as well as material requirements planning systems (Journal of manufacturing technology management, 2004). Material requirements planning systems (MRP) outline the materials needed in terms of quantity and monitors the flow of these materials in the course of the production.
Information Exchange Technologies (IET)
This technology helps in the storage and exchange of information in the course of a production. This information, in its turn, enhances coordination between different departments for effective production (Journal of manufacturing technology management, 2004). They define how information flows from the top management to the low-level operators. The technologies in this category include general databases, communication networks within a factory as well as data transfer protocols.
Factors to Consider When Applying Technology in Manufacturing Industry
Several factors which determine the technology to be applied in the production process may be different in different settings. Among these factors are:
The size of the firm
The size of any firm defines its technological requirement. Big firms require sophisticated technologies while small firms need simple technologies. This is influenced by the capital base of the firm as well as the technology requirement.
The cost of a technological device is a key determinant of what technology to acquire. Some devices are expensive yet there are other cheaper devices that can serve the same purpose. The cost of the machine should be directly proportional to the value of the product being produced (Vaupotic? et al, 2006). One should not buy an expensive machine just to produce small amounts of goods at a low cost. At the same time, one should look at the market prices of various machines available in the market before making a purchase.
People would always prefer to buy machines that can operate for a long time without repair. While cheap machines tend to collapse within a short time it would be better to buy expensive machines that are durable than cheap ones that would keep on breaking down.
Availability of spare parts
Manufactures would always prefer to buy machines whose spare parts are readily available. There are some new technologies that do not have spare parts. Once they break down, they are hard to repair (Davim & Jackson, 2012). Hence, manufactures should conduct research on spare parts availability before buying a machine. Some people even prefer old technologies because they can easily be repaired by local technicians.
Manufactures opt to buy machines that are flexible. This means that the machines can be adjusted to suit certain industrial needs. One should buy a machine that can perform different tasks rather than buying many machines to perform separate tasks. A flexible technology can be adjusted in terms of location, spares, products produced as well as energy use (Davim & Jackson, 2012). One would prefer a machine that can use diesel and electricity power at the same time to another one that uses electricity or diesel only.
One should only buy a machine that can be operated by the organization team. One should not purchase a machine that requires a high level of expertise. This may not be cost-effective as it would require the firm to train all the staff on its operation.
Product and Process Development
Any technology to be introduced within a firm should be in line with the products manufactured and the processes involved (Davim & Jackson, 2012). Any machine that does not match these factors may turn out to be useless. Different machines are used in different processes to produce different items (Bruce & Coh, 2007). The technology being used in making pharmaceutical products may not be used to make farm chemicals.
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Problems Associated With Technology Use in the Manufacturing Sector
In the previous sections, a lot has been covered on how technology is useful in production processes. However, there are some negative aspects of technology that cannot be ignored:
It is evident that the application of technology in the manufacturing sector renders many people to be jobless. In other words, technology substitutes more jobs than it generates. This has created a wide gap between skilled and unskilled workers. Modern technology only favors skilled workers while those who lack skills are eliminated from the firms. This has raised the unemployment level in many countries (Bruce & Coh, 2007). Unemployment among the majority of youth has its own results as most of them turn to anti-social behavior to sustain themselves. Consequently, this creates more problems than it solves.
This is similar to addiction though it is viewed in technological and industrial terms. It reaches a point whereby the firms totally depend on technology for operations to flow smoothly. This can be a drawback if there is a mass breakdown of machines. If such a situation occurs, all the operations of the firm are paralyzed. At the same time, the whole issue makes the workers depend on technology such that they cannot even perform simple tasks. In other words, technology encourages laziness and laxity among workers (Bruce & Coh, 2007). The downtime of workers or machines may have severe consequences on company production. This may consequently be an advantage to its competitors, thus, reduced profit.