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Driving Change in Manufacturing & Logistics: Cognitive Technology

Driving Change in Manufacturing & Logistics: Cognitive Technology

When you think of cognitive technology, what comes to mind? Likely one of those funky virtual reality headsets or – if you’re more of a skeptic – an army of robots rebelling to take over all of humanity. But cognitive technology is about a lot more than futuristic-looking toys and speculation about the future, specifically when you consider its various applications in the manufacturing and logistics industries.

Cognitive Technologies on the Shop Floor
As mentioned in my earlier post on autonomous technology, robots have been a part of the manufacturing and logistics workflow for years now. But they will soon be taken to the next level with the addition of cognitive technology. Whereas today’s robots are largely only able to do a set number of pre-programmed tasks, robots with cognitive abilities are able to learn: recognizing patterns, anticipating needs, identifying irregularities and – most importantly – adjusting their actions to fit the situation or alerting employees of a potential issue. This leads to streamlined processes and supply chains that operate more efficiently and with less risk. For example, a cognitive-enabled robot can ensure abnormalities can be caught early, which has the capacity to save thousands, if not millions of dollars by eliminating unusable product.

Augmented reality plays a role in this as well. With the advent of the Microsoft HoloLens, a self-contained holographic computer, employees are able to overlay holographic images on actual product, allowing for step by step instructions for assembly, or even just where the product needs to be taken to next, to literally be in front of their eyes at all times, leading to increased quality and efficiency. In fact, a number of early trials have shown a significant decrease in picking errors and increased picking efficiency when warehouse employees were outfitted with augmented reality technologies. Outside of the warehouse, this technology can be utilized to provide instructions, directions and even information on parking instructions to delivery drivers, leading to a faster, more secure delivery process.

Delivering a Better Product
And just as robots with cognitive capabilities and augmented reality are impacting the way today’s products are produced, virtual reality is already working to create a better product for tomorrow. Similarly to the way augmented reality delivers directions directly to an employee on a production line, virtual reality systems enable engineers to create – and interact with – virtual product prototypes, allowing them to make tweaks and changes virtually to ultimately create the best next generation product possible without wasting materials by developing multiple physical prototypes.

As cognitive technologies continue to advance and become more widely adopted, the manufacturing and logistics industries will evolve to be more streamlined and efficient. Additionally, the implementation of these technologies will improve workplace conditions, as robots take over tasks that are unsafe for human employees, augmented reality cuts down on training times for those employees, and virtual reality allows engineers to deliver better products. At ModusLink, we’re staying at the forefront of the emerging technologies driving change in the manufacturing and logistics industries. For more on what’s next, check out our “From Factories to the Future” webinar.

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