The manufacturing industry has always been effected by technological advancements, most notably with the introduction of machinery. Over time, employees and machines have worked together to improve efficiency and consistency in output, in turn allowing businesses to improve their products and manage costs. However, there are limitations in current operations, where in departments often work in silos and are not always in touch with market demand and overall business objectives.
Digital solutions present a huge opportunity to manufacturing companies looking to overcome these challenges and to take their business to the next level. Connected manufacturing technology has huge potential to optimize processes, streamline supply chain and reduce cost by putting pro-active measures in place and being more agile to demands as they arise.
Connected manufacturing typically consists of a combination of four key elements:
- IOT – to collect the data
- Connectivity – to move the data
- Storage – to keep the data
- Analytics – to learn from the data
When these four parts work together, it allows the various stages of the production chain to be linked and analysis will take place with a holistic view of the manufacturing process. This is where efficiency, quality and cost effectiveness can be optimized more than ever before.
Connecting the disconnected
The beauty of a connected factory is that it connects the various functions which had previously been working in silos. Smart factories can adapt to shifting customer demands quickly should changes be needed or market demand changes. Communication between production and supply chain can ensure materials are available at the right times, reducing storage requirements while ensuring production can run at maximum capacity.
Often in large scale and high value manufacturing industries (for example automotive), any issues which disrupt or stop the manufacturing process can have a huge financial impact, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour.
The introduction of IOT in factories allows for constant monitoring of machinery using sensors. Automated analysis of the data gathered lets maintenance of machinery be controlled in real time. With the help of IOT and data, operations departments can predict when machinery is likely to have problems by monitoring its output, and therefore organize maintenance or repairs before this impacts the bottom line.
Keeping a competitive edge
It’s estimated that by 2020, there will be 923 million connected machines. Connected manufacturing is changing the way business gets done globally, so it is crucial for businesses to stay up to date to remain competitive in the market.
Companies that embrace connected manufacturing solutions can expect to enjoy increased efficiency, reduced costs and improved agility. This in turn provides customers with high quality products at optimized cost, plus lets the business be flexible to meet changing customer demands on an ongoing basis giving a competitive edge. The true power of smart factories is their ability to evolve and grow in line with the marketplace and business objectives.