Manufacturing as we know it is going through a phase of unprecedented transformations. Several initiatives and efforts are in full swing to fundamentally transform the manufacturing sector and associated processes. These initiatives, although known by different names such as industry 4.0 in the west to manufacturing innovation 3.0 in the east, they all stand to have a common pursuit – smart manufacturing. A fully-connected manufacturing business where machines, devices, and people work seamlessly, sharing and acting on information in real-time is vital for manufacturers to pull off a successful changeover to smart manufacturing.
The global push for smart manufacturing is underway, creating a pool of growth opportunities for manufacturers. Smart manufacturing techniques offer several opportunities for companies in the manufacturing industry to improve their operations by providing greater connectivity across the manufacturing facility and the ability to act on production intelligence. However, while some agile manufacturers have embraced smart manufacturing fully and are reaping the benefits already, most still have much work ahead of them. According to experts at Infiniti, less than 15% of manufacturing companies around the globe have successfully implemented a strategy to apply Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to their production processes. Experts at Infiniti explain how companies in the manufacturing sector can go about smartly implementing smart manufacturing in their organizations.
Improve quality and productivity
Quality management and kaizen techniques can only provide limited outcomes when the information relied on are limited and not available in real-time. Manufacturers are leveraging embedded equipment intelligence to monitor most product specifications in real-time, either from a customer or regulatory perspective. Apart from this, they’re using this intelligence to address product defects and variations, verify whether quality goals are met, and improve customer satisfaction. Embedded intelligence, when used to improve control and transparency of manufacturing processes creates new opportunities to improve productivity. For instance, operators on the plant floor are analyzing real-time production data to uncover hidden inefficiencies and ensure faster implementation of changes. Managers and logistics professionals are leveraging smart manufacturing technologies to deliver critical data including forecasts and schedules to suppliers, while also monitoring delivery performances at the supply chain level.
Enhancing decision-making process
Manufacturers must consider upgrading their existing technologies in order to attain next-gen productivity. This involves reconciling dissimilar data sources with the current IT systems, extracting the data from smart manufacturing technologies, and then converting that data into actionable insights. Manufacturers that have adhered to these steps and armed themselves with better information are using it to optimize their assets, improve their responsiveness to changing customer demands, refine workflows, and reduce inventory holding.
Safeguard against threats
Availability of larger data sets and more connection points can introduce greater risk to manufacturing companies in the forms of internal and external threats. Cyber attackers are looking beyond corporate servers to target operations technologies, while decades-old devices and controls of companies in the manufacturing sector can be more susceptible to breaches through both malicious attacks and unintentional employee actions. No single security technology or methodology will suffice in this complex threat landscape. Instead, manufacturers must use a comprehensive, defense-in-depth approach that establishes security safeguards at different layers to stop threats on multiple fronts. Robust and secure network infrastructure should be built on standard and unmodified Ethernet, which has become the industry preference for security purposes.
Safe, compliant, and reliable operations
An ongoing concern for most manufacturers is to achieving safe, compliant, and reliable operations, and smart manufacturing technologies provide new opportunities for dealing with some of these age-old challenges. Common opportunities provided by smart manufacturing will include replacing obsolete and isolated automation systems that have exceeded their life spans, are difficult to connect and are no longer supported by their manufacturers. However, manufacturers also should define new requirements based on past performance in areas such as employee injuries, machinery downtime, and work stoppages.