When it comes to developing a smart factory, the list challenges is long and diverse. In this article we will explore some of the major areas to think about when planning to connect your factory.
A smart factory cannot be bought off the shelf. It needs to be carefully designed and tailored to the needs of the organisation in question, even when it is based around non-proprietary technology. This requires a logical and pragmatic understanding of the organisation’s needs and goals, and careful project management throughout.
There’s no getting around it – creating a smart factory costs money. Deploying brand-new connected hardware on the factory floor clearly requires an upfront investment, but so too does retrofitting existing equipment with connected sensors. On an ongoing basis, whilst smart factories should ultimately drive cost efficiencies in terms of streamlined processes and shifts to models like predictive maintenance, they still involve different financial models to legacy factories. Measuring those costs against the benefits realised by the smart factory, and therefore evaluating the success of a smart factory project, can also be challenging.
The IIoT marks a radical shift in how industrial hardware is managed, operated and maintained – and this means that in-depth training is often necessary to enable staff to adapt to the new setup. Maintenance and engineering staff, for example, are required to move away from old processes of regular manual checks, and plan their schedules based on data automatically generated by the factory floor. Production and assembly staff may be required to start using augmented reality technologies. Upskilling existing staff members to use this new technology requires additional investment in terms of time and money.
The smart factory is, by nature, a connected factory – and this means that protecting it against digital vandalism and deliberate infiltration has to become a major priority. Cyberattacks on the smart factory can have a devastating impact in terms of day-to-day operations and long-term protection of assets, so it is vital that organisations developing smart factories can both defend against cyberattacks and rapidly identify, isolate and mitigate them if and when they do happen.
Much of the smart factory’s intelligence – its ability to learn from itself and optimise processes without human interaction – fundamentally transforms the ways in which organisations manage their internal processes and achieve and demonstrate regulatory compliance. New processes and audit trails may need to be developed.
How, then, can industrial and manufacturing organisations best meet these challenges and develop smart factories of the future?
Just as there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ technology solution for building a smart factory, so there is no single path to success for creating one. However, there are some principles to follow and you can find them in our Insight Guide: How IIoT will deliver Smart Factories below.
At its core, the IIoT is able to bring together design, manufacture, supply and demand and maintenance, blurring the boundaries between these previously disparate elements of the factory floor. In this white paper, we’re looking at each of those areas in more detail, and giving some examples of how the IIoT will – and is already – delivering smarter factories