As the world becomes more and more digital, new technology is quickly permeating every industry and sector. Technological developments have rapidly revolutionised the modern world, increasing the efficiency of production and improving working and living environments at an exponential rate.

For example, with the development of Industry 4.0, we have seen vast improvements in the safety and productivity of industrial environments, including factory floors and warehouse facilities. Advancements in technology such as robotics, the industrial ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) and AI (artificial intelligence) have allowed for more ‘smart’ factories, where the quality of work settings and production can be efficiently monitored and regulated.

Virtual assistants

New connected technologies can help to streamline industrial operations across the board, including decision-making, gathering data and consumer insights, sales processes and product innovation.

For site managers overseeing multiple locations, advances in digital technology offer much-needed improvements to logistics management, allowing them to more effectively keep track of shipments, inventory, staff and machinery from one location. This minimises the time taken for approvals, as well as addressing and preventing complications due to a lack of accurate and timely insights.

In these instances, real-time data facilitates high-speed communication, keeping everyone up to date and informed. This presents the opportunity for companies to minimise waiting times for information and results, contributing to more efficient operations.

Technology can also be used to speed up mundane tasks, such as packing goods, to increase the rate of production. By automating repetitive, boring tasks that would usually be the responsibility of human employees, warehouse or factory workers and managers are able to focus their attention on wider responsibilities which might facilitate greater results and company growth.

Connected technologies such as IoT can also aid with site security as smartphone-enabled applications allow operations managers to keep an eye on security from one place, at the touch of a button. This could include anything from CCTV and entrance monitoring to cyber-attack alerts, with the added bonus of portability so that issues can be dealt with in real-time, regardless of location.

In fact, the IoT allows whole operations to be managed effectively and remotely with ease, eliminating much of human error and emergency maintenance, which is particularly important to ensure productivity does not come to a halt.

Safety first

The industrial sector is notoriously one of the most high-risk industries to work in. But technological advancements have created a much safer working environment, providing solutions for long-term issues faced by OEMs and factory workers alike.

Technology can improve safety standards by replacing the need for — and risk to — human interference with industrial processes. For instance, drones and robotics can be utilised in more high-risk areas to retrieve data and carry out tasks that could put a human worker’s safety on the line.

At the end of 2020, there were around 21,700 industrial robots operating in the UK (and 2.7 million operating in factories worldwide!). Many of these robots have been designed to increase efficiency and minimise risk to the human workforce. Robotics are often used to carry out repetitive tasks in place of humans who can get tired and lose focus, putting them at greater risk of mistakes.

Repetitive motion injury is also one of the costliest injuries for staff — something which can be avoided with the use of robotics and other autonomous technologies. Furthermore, sensors and automated safety systems can constantly assess the functionality of a product or system and alert the operator or stop the machine as soon as something goes wrong.

In explosive atmospheres and high-pressure environments such as industrial sites, it is also essential that equipment and systems — as well as workers — are intrinsically safe. Industrial applications consist of various complex technologies, so it is important that all the parts and processes involved — whether it be a PCB assembly or prototype cable assembly — meet the high-performance demands of the field.

One faulty component could be enough for a PCB to short circuit and cause a fire or explosion. This is why the reliability and safety of technologies used in industrial settings start with the components and sub-assemblies.

EC Electronics’ Quality Management System (QMS) is certified to EN ISO/IEC 80079-34:2018 in line with IECEx and ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU, ensuring products meet the requirements for products certified for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.