Smart Factory – Is it really that clever?
In its basic terms, a smart factory is simply a digitised, fully connected production facility, that can integrate a constant stream of data from system wide physical and operational assets, to drive manufacturing, maintenance, inventory tracking, operations and other types of activities across the entire manufacturing network.
By having a more flexible and adaptive production system that operates autonomously, the business by default becomes more lean, efficient and agile. Harmonious communication between all assets on the factory floor ensures that everything is functioning as it should be, and any repairs or malfunctions are identified in real-time without having to halt the entire production line.
Smart sensors are fitted to a factory’s assets that generate data sets which are continuously updated to reflect an asset’s current condition. These insights allow manufacturers much greater visibility across their assets and systems, leading to improved productivity and predictive capabilities.
Benefits of the smart factory
By embarking and investing in a smart factory initiative, the manufacturer is now able to see the complete picture, leading to increased output, quality and consistency. Additional benefits include:
• Reduction in workforce challenges.
• Reduction in waste and energy consumption.
• Increased profits.
• Reduction in downtime.
• Better insights into supply chain issues
Having this centralized overview of the business can also facilitate and simplify the introduction of new products and processes as well as:
• Reducing costs.
• Reducing accidents.
• Better material management.
• Increased production.
• Increased product quality.
A unique advantage of a smart factory is that it doesn’t require companies to abandon their costly, long-established and mission critical systems. Instead, they can now add this new layer to their infrastructure and bridge the gap between traditional enterprise information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems.
Safety and Sustainability
Safety may not be something that springs to mind when thinking about smart factories, however, with greater process autonomy, smart factories are reducing accidents as there is less potential for human error. Having a factory that is relatively self-sufficient, means that certain job roles that required repetitive and fatiguing activities have now been replaced. This empowers the employee to take on greater levels of judgement and on-the-spot discretion – this often leads to much greater job satisfaction and a reduction in turnover. Also, by enabling businesses to protect its workers more effectively, it also helps them achieve a competitive advantage by reducing many safety and compliance related costs and more importantly can save lives.
Sustainability is another benefit of the smart factory as it enables manufacturers to improve their environmental footprint, save money and protect the planet. By streamlining operations such as adjusting energy loads on machines, lowering heating requirements and cycle times as well as having less material waste, not only have you a more sustainable factory, ultimately you also have a much healthier environment.
Having a unique insight into every aspect of the smart factory, means that you have a more optimised quality process that leads to a better-quality product with far fewer defects and recalls. Having this foresight to be able to predict and detect quality defect trends far sooner and identify the root causes whether human, machine or environmental will lower scrap rates and lead times and increase fill rates and yield.
How do I find out more?
The challenge of starting a smart factory for many may seem daunting – however by starting small with just a single asset and then scale once lessons have been learned and a “win” is achieved, you can then scale to additional assets, production lines, and factories.
If you would like to chat about your current smart factory goals, challenges or would like to understand more, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org call 01246 925 927 or complete the short form on the link below and we will get back to you straight away.
Unleashing the Smart Factory
Learn how to tear down the innovation barriers and move towards innovation platforms. Read this whitepaper to find out everything you need to know to begin your own Industry 4.0 journey.