Today, new technologies have a considerable impact on product development. The needs and expectations of end-users are considered at every stage of the product development process: user-centered design is therefore becoming a priority. In this context, here are the 10 technological trends in product development identified by our team of experts to help manufacturing companies stand out.
1- Connectivity, IoT, Smart Products
With the Internet of Things (IoT), physical objects can collect and share data with minimal human intervention. Intelligent products, or connected products, are linked to the Internet to share information about themselves, their environment or their user. Connectivity to products enhances the user experience, and helps make decisions to reduce operating costs, increase reliability, or reduce downtime.
2- Transportation Electrification and Autonomous Driving Systems
With the green economy increasingly being promoted around the world, the use of electric vehicles and the development of innovative energy efficiency and conversion solutions for freight transportation are priorities. Electrification of transportation facilitates the development of autonomous driving systems, facilitates operations, and solves labor shortage issues. Automated passenger transport is not new as many metro lines already operate without drivers. However, technological evolutions will allow to explore new avenues for these technologies.
3- User-Centered Product Design
Designing a product requires a multidisciplinary approach and several factors must be considered to ensure that the product developed meets the needs of the user. Thus, products intended for the public must be intuitive and easily meet their needs. Product development must therefore be focused on the user experience. In addition, ergonomic factors should not be neglected. Depending on the target audience, ergonomics can be crucial for the customer’s choice and must allow for ease of use and comfort. All these elements ultimately influence quality, costs, and delivery times.
4- User Assistance
Here, too, the evolution is continuing, new functional possibilities are being developed to aid users. In the automotive sector, this includes driving assistants, parking assistants, suitcase openers and many others. In the field of culture and entertainment, who hasn’t already visited an immersive exhibition: virtual reality artificially reproduces a sensory experience with sight, touch, hearing or smell while augmented reality adds virtual elements in a real environment. With the widespread use of cell phones and technology in our homes, personal voice assistants are very present in our daily lives. Conversational agents (commonly called chatbots) are more difficult to detect, and their usefulness is limited to conversing with a person for a few minutes, giving them the impression of conversing with a person themselves. Most importantly, they spot keywords to retrieve answers that have a programmed pattern. Whether through direct feedback with users or data collection by IoTs, problem diagnostics are becoming easier. Thus, the data will be used for the development of future generations of products.
5- Evolution of Manufacturing Processes and Materials
Taking automation to the next level: laser projections guide the work of operators in the factory, or a robotic arm can work in symbiosis with them. New composite or plastic materials, as well as new bonding or mechanical assembly processes also make it possible to improve the production tool and facilitate the operators’ task. Product Life Cycle Management (PLM) is also evolving, and it plays a critical role in helping manufacturers develop the next generation of products, at lower cost and with a faster time to market.
6- Factory 4.0 and Automation
Nearly one in two Quebec manufacturing companies (46%) has begun to integrate digital technologies into their operations. If we consider all Canadian companies, including those in Quebec, they still lag internationally.
Since digital technologies are more reliable and less expensive, this is the ideal time to develop products for the factory of the future. With the advent of digital technologies (Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, cloud computing and collaborative robotics), it is possible to connect all of a company’s resources (people, software, equipment, products, etc.) and prevent various problems such as production stoppages, equipment breakdowns or non-conformities. The benefits of smart manufacturing are many: improved productivity, advanced maintenance and monitoring, better work prospects, improved durability, operational efficiency of equipment.
7- The Digitization of Product Development
In recent years, the digitization of the entire design and engineering process has greatly increased. 3D models are becoming more and more complete, with detailed harnesses and electrical drawings. Simulation is increasingly used and combined with instrumented physical testing or for advanced functions. 3D scanners and 3D printing are frequently used in prototyping. In short, the digital model is getting closer and closer to reality to save time and improve performance.
New technologies and materials used in 3D manufacturing combined with the massive amount of data made available through datafication are paving the way for exploiting the potential of generative design. While finite element methods and optimization are not new tools in product development, the use of more efficient algorithmic programs and artificial intelligence are producing amazing results, more refined, faster.
8- Digital Twins
Digital twin technology is becoming increasingly popular in the marketplace. A digital twin is a virtual model designed to accurately reflect an object, system, implementation, or process in digital form. While simulations help to understand how an object behaves in the real world, they cannot accurately reproduce that behavior. Thanks to real-time data, digital twins can show the entire life cycle of an object and its exact relationship to reality. This means that digital twins can address more issues and have more potential for product improvement than simulations.
9- Collaboration Platforms
Collaborative work has become widespread. Its goal is to ensure the development of collective intelligence within companies, it also allows to exploit and analyze work instructions in a digital, connected, and intelligent way. Centralizing, making accessible and updating this information in real time allows employees to work more fluidly. This results in better creativity, time savings, increased productivity, and improved well-being at work.
10- Think Outside the Box!
Innovation and creativity are intimately linked in targeting new opportunities. Creativity relies heavily on your ability to make connections between your many ideas. There is no creativity without risk-taking and you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone, which requires constant energy and effort. Thinking outside the box and trusting yourself is the first step to success!
MERKUR is a firm of experts in manufacturing performance and innovation and has been doing so for over 25 years. From strategy to execution, its sole objective is to make Quebec’s manufacturing companies more efficient by offering innovative solutions in product development, operational excellence, manufacturing engineering, automation and smart factory. Merkur is proud to contribute to innovation and productivity in Quebec!
KHROME PRODUIT TRANSPORT is a manufacturing integrator located in Drummondville specialized in the design and manufacturing of train car interiors and exteriors. Its strength comes from its great engineering capacity and its manufacturing agility. Among its customer portfolio, there are major manufacturers such as Alstom, Bombardier Transportation and Kawasaki Rail Car.
SYNKRO is a software developed by Merkur and designed specifically for high-performance manufacturers. It collects, classifies, and distributes the right data to the right people at the right time. SYNKRO gives you a real vision of your operations. SYNKRO is the software solution that finally connects your floor and your offices!