Machine Vision and the Future of Factory Automation
The future of the factory floor will involve highly trained workers and dexterous machines working side by side to manufacture products in entirely new ways. This will drive down labor and maintenance costs, improve productivity, and eliminate errors and mistakes on the assembly line. Machine vision hardware will occupy an important place in the factory of the future. According to a report from ABI Research, a market analyst firm, the compound annual growth rate of machine vision technology is forecasted to reach 53 percent by 2023. The industry is also projected to generate approximately $193.8 billion of annual revenue from hardware sales and services by the end of the period.
The pace of automation will likely accelerate due to several different trends converging at once, including the proliferation of cloud computing and the ease of integration. The most important factor, however, is the quality of data analysis from the machine itself. According to a report from McKinsey, a global consulting firm, advances in artificial intelligence and sensors will allow machines to take on all kinds of complex and highly variable tasks that they could not do before. For instance, trials in Japan have demonstrated that a stereoscopic imaging system could properly evaluate the location and ripeness of fruit, thus reducing the time to harvest by as much as to 40 percent. Many machines still require input from humans to function properly. But in the next few years more factories will move toward a fully automated system.
For machine vision devices to reach their full potential, however, they will need to be standardized and integrated: meaning different machines will need to operate on the same standards, and they will need to be integrated into the larger organization. This will allow the organization to respond in near real-time to changes happening in different parts of the factory. On a wider scale, factories can use the information they’ve gathered to communicate more effectively with customers and suppliers. According to McKinsey, this will require not only the introduction of open architectures and new networking protocols, but also changes in “culture, management processes, and mind-sets.”