The Smart Factory – Find Solutions to New Problems
What is a Smart Factory?
A Smart factory uses technology to automatically sharerninformation digitally across the operation, including data from materials,rnpeople, and machines. Smart manufacturing relies on an integrated systemrnconsisting of simulation technologies, connected equipment, and collaborationrntools.
There is no single technology that turns an analog factoryrninto a Smart factory. However, there are many common technologies and traitsrnthat Smart factories share, and manufacturers that blend multiple technologiesrnare the ones most likely to be considered “Smart factories.”
What are the benefitsrnof a Smart Factory?
One of the most obvious benefits of a Smart factory is arnmajor boost to efficiency. By removing inefficient human decision-makingrnprocesses that can be not only slow, but also biased or simply incorrect,rnfactories can produce more with less – less time, less material resources,rnfewer breakdowns, and scrap parts, etc.
Although many manufacturing employees worry that the influxrnof automation and other Smart technologies will put them out of the job, Smartrnmanufacturing opens up opportunities for more, new, higher paying jobs thatrnmany people find more engaging and fulfilling. These highe rpaying jobs alsornattract young, new talent to the field with new insights and concepts to betterrnthe facility.
In the same context, Smart factories are breeding groundsrnfor innovation. Because of the agility filled into the system by way ofrnreal-time analytics, there is more room to experiment, be creative, findrnsolutions to new problems within the market, and test ideas at scale withoutrnspending unnecessary resources. Smart factories even see an uptick in customerrnsatisfaction, because costs can go down, shipping times can go down, all thernwhile quality and consistency go up.
Technology in a Smart Factory includes:
Industrial Internetrnof Things (IIoT)
This consists of small sensors and other hardware that arernconnected and communicate with one another. They might be used for assetrnmanagement, energy reduction and lighting, or machine data collection, althoughrnthere is a nearly unlimited number of use cases for IIoT in manufacturing.
Edge computing takes data coming from the factory floor andrnprocesses it close by, removing the wait time it can take to upload to therncloud, analyse, and redistribute info to the factory floor. Edge computingrnenables real-time analytics and ultra-fast decision-making using data, and isrnperfect for safety mechanisms, predictive maintenance, and similarlyrntime-sensitive computing tasks.
Predictive Analyticsrnand Machine Learning
In regards to manufacturing, as well as other businesses,rnmachine learning and predictive analytics are one such use case for therncollected data mentioned above. Data can be combined and used to fuel machinernlearning models that offer decision making insights from sets of informationrnthat can be too complex for humans to derive value from alone. Machine learningrnand predictive analytics can be
used to forecast demand, perform predictive and prescriptivernmaintenance on machines, spot openings and opportunities in the market, andrnmuch, much more. This is a very powerful feature of a Smart factory.
With smart, connected machines comes the opportunity forrnhumans to step outside of the circle, and allow automation to step in. In manyrncases, machines are better able to handle tasks faster and more accurately thanrntheir human counterparts. Industrial automation releases these humans to focusrnon other complex cognitive tasks that are better suited for human minds thanrnmachine minds.
When IIoT devices collect data, it has to go somewhere. Samernfor other data that manufacturers commonly collect like customer data,rnproduction data, supplier data, etc. Big data simply refers to these massivernstores of information that manufacturers can pull from as well as ways to sortrnand manage this information for use with other tools and analytics software.
What else do Smartrnfactories have in common?
Paperless:rnBecause processes are digitised, there is no need for paper in a Smart factory.rnEverything is stored on the cloud or locally, in Smart format.
Real-Time Metrics:rnTo operate with the type of efficiency expected from a Smart factory,rnmanufacturers must have access to real-time metrics that let them adjust on thernfly to ensure production goals and other company creativities are continuing tornbe met – no surprises.
Big Data Analytics:rnHaving tonnes of data does no good unless it is processed and analysed. Thisrntype of analysis helps Smart factories make more informed decisions that arernbased on the numbers,
allowing them to spot trends, opportunities, problems, andrnareas to increase efficiencies.
Linked Stack: Asrnmentioned, it’s less about having one technology or another and more aboutrnhaving a system of integrated technologies. This can include PLC info from thernfloor, merged with ERP data, merged with MES and SCADA data, etc. This exchangernof information between
machines allows for quick, data-driven, machine-led decisionrnmaking at all levels of the manufacturing process.
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