What is a Smart Factory?
A Smart Factory is a modernized version of the old-fashioned manufacturing process to create what’s known as “Smart Manufacturing”, with a heavy emphasis on increasing flexibility and efficiency. The improvement comes from using technology to create a streamlined system that constantly collects data and monitors output to optimize efficiency and enhance production capacity.
Types of Smart Factory 4.0 Technologies
Smart factories are able to operate at peak efficiency because they leverage the different technologies available to them, including the following:
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – The manufacturing industry has been significantly impacted by IoT. Smart manufacturing relies on data collected from a group of interconnected assets, machines, or processes. The data is stored on the cloud or off-line where it can be reviewed to provide visibility and the basis for improvement.
Sensors – Used to monitor factors across a production line, sensors can collect data points and provide an instant overview of various conditions. Temperature can, for example, be monitored and adjusted using sensors and AI.
Cloud Computing – Allows smart factories to store much more data than traditional onsite storage and enables multiple connected devices to upload information simultaneously and super fast, creating the opportunity for real-time adjustments and feedback.
Big Data Analytics – Being able to collect vast amounts of data for analysis means that the manufacturing process can be carefully and accurately monitored, key metrics can be identified, and underperforming processes detected and rectified.
How Smart is Your Smart Factory?
Incorporating smart manufacturing elements will not happen all at once for most manufacturers. Factories will pass through the following stages on their way to becoming a true Smart Factory 4.0:
Level One: Available Data – Data is collected but is not easily accessible. The collection format is inefficient and requires manual labor and time to sort and analyze.
Level Two: Accessible Data – Data is collected and stored in a more efficient and accessible manner. Analysis can be performed on the data; however, it may still take time.
Level Three: Active Data – An efficient technological system – often using AI and machine learning – is in place that gathers and analyzes data to generate relevant and beneficial insight without too much human input.
Level Four: Action-oriented Data – At this level, data is gathered and analyzed, faults or issues can be identified and corrected without human intervention, the system is fully automated.
Pros and Cons of Smart Factories
Smart factories enhance efficiency, improve productivity and save money in the long run. By digitalizing the management and monitoring of the production line, issues can be flagged and repaired quicker. In addition, a more streamlined smart manufacturing process increases production speed and, ultimately, profitability.
One major downside to smart factories is the initial financial investment needed to convert one’s production line from traditional to smart. For small businesses, this investment may be too significant. Another risk is the reliance on a functioning digital network. One small power cut or technical fault in the chain and the entire smart factory comes to a halt. Fortunately, there are generators and back-up systems that can be put into place to significantly lower this risk.
How Matics Can Help
Matics provides an end-to-end system that can turn any factory into a smart factory. The RtOI (real time operational intelligence) solution offers full visibility and control, giving factory managers the actionable data they need to make better business decisions, streamline workflows and increase profitability.