From simple bolts and screws to hose clamps and grease zerks, fasteners and fittings are essential to a wide range of manufacturing processes. There have been a number of developments in the production of these key components during recent years. Advancements have been driven in part by international events such as the pandemic and part by the marketplace demand for speed and convenience. Read on as we explore the latest trends having a direct impact on the fastener and fitting sector.
Focus on health and safety
The world’s leading manufacturers of fasteners and fittings have long recognised the importance of employee health and safety. This has been reflected in compliance with international standards and regulations. However, WHS has become an even greater focus following the international spread of Covid. This seems likely to continue, with manufacturers making use of advanced technologies to keep track of employee activities.
As highlighted in our recent manufacturing blog, the worlds leading manufacturers share in the commitment to innovation. This is clear in the production of fittings, including self-tapping screws, which can be easily fixed in plastic. Ultra-thin screw heads have also been developed, saving space and allowing greater flexibility.
Here are some more examples of fastener and fitting innovations:
- High-strength fasteners being made from super-conductive or ultra-light alloys
- Compact design of fasteners and fittings (of particular relevance to the electronics and aerospace sectors)
- Development of security fastening solutions for the prevention of theft and vandalism
- Installation of fasteners during the stamping process
- Development of surface mounting capabilities, reducing the risk of damage to printed circuit boards.
Increased use of AI Technologies
With manufacturing technology developing at a rapid pace, it’s become increasingly common for traditional manual processes to be transferred to artificial intelligence (AI) systems. This is happening across the world, with benefits such as increased accuracy and efficiency.
As an example, the Taiwanese manufacturers of Sumeeko have been using AI for the real-time monitoring of machine performance, allowing for instant readjustment and recalibration. With accurate predictive maintenance, such manufacturers are able to minimise the risk of breakdowns.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
The technological focus looks set to continue with the widespread adoption of the industrial internet of things (IIoT). This involves the collection of manufacturing data via a range of interconnected devices. Such data can then be analysed and used to optimise the manufacturing workflow.
Fastenal, a Minnesota-based company specialising in the manufacture of fasteners and tools, has been using an IIOT platform for the monitoring of factory floor production. This has allowed for the collection of insights at a range of time intervals for the identification of improvements.
The adoption of such advanced technologies looks set to expand as the prices continue to drop and manufacturers realise positive impacts such as increased efficiency and reduced operating costs.
Increased manufacturing automation
Manufacturers have long faced difficulty in the employment of suitably skilled and knowledgeable factory workers. This issue has been exacerbated by the pandemic, despite continued growth in the demand for manufactured components. It’s hardly surprising that an increasing number of manufacturers are looking to automation for increased productivity and reduced costs. It’s expected that we’ll see more dark factories, where product variants are manufactured by machines rather than humans.
Minimising environmental impacts
The international focus on environmental sustainability is having a direct bearing on the manufacturer of fasteners and fittings. Realising their environmental commitments, such manufacturers are opting to integrate sustainable processes and carbon-neutral practices. As an example, the EU REACH Regulation and EU RoHS Directive aim to reduce and restrict substances that can be deemed harmful to humans and the environment. Compliance with such regulations will be key in terms of sales to retailers and end customers wanting to purchase sustainable, reusable, and recyclable products.
Product Information Management solutions
Product information management best practices tie in with many of the fastener and fitting trends that we’ve highlighted. Manufacturers are able to simplify the process of product data management, making maintenance and distribution that much easier. The automation of traditionally manual processes allows for the more efficient and accurate generation of data for catalogs and product sheets in various languages.
The beneficial impacts of a Product Information Management solution have been realised in the case of Schafer + Peters, the manufacturers of stainless steel and acid-resistant fasteners. Implementation of the Perfion PIM solution has allowed for the streamlined organisation of product data specific to 32,000 stock items. There has been a great reduction in the time required for generation of the 1,000 page product catalogue, from as much as 9 months to as little as a week.
Learn more about PIM for manufacturers of fasteners and fittings.