New technologies are finding their place in many areas of life. One of these is an industry, where advanced technologies have been used for years and work very well for factories. The implementation of smart solutions based on advanced IT technologies into manufacturing companies has had a significant impact on technological development and improved innovation. One of them is Smart Manufacturing, which helps industrial optimisation by drawing insights from data generated in manufacturing processes.
What is meant by Smart Manufacturing?
Smart Manufacturing is a concept that encompasses the full integration of systems with collaborative production units that are able to react in real time and adapt to changing environmental conditions, making it possible to meet the requirements within the supply chain. The implementation of an intelligent manufacturing system supports the optimisation of production processes. At the same time, it contributes to increased profits for industrial companies.
The concept of Smart Manufacturing is closely related to concepts such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or cloud computing. What these three concepts have in common is data. The idea behind smart manufacturing is that the information it contains is available whenever necessary and in its most useful form. It is data analysis that has the greatest impact on optimising manufacturing processes and makes them more efficient.
IIoT and industrial optimisation
The Industrial Internet of Things is nothing more than the application of IoT potential in the industrial sector. In the intelligent manufacturing model, people, machines and processes are interconnected through IT systems. Each machine features sensors that collect vital data about its operation. The system sends the data to the cloud, where it goes through and extensive analysis. With the information obtained from them, employees have an insight into the exact process flow. Thanks to that, they are able to anticipate failures and prevent them earlier, avoiding possible downtime. In addition, companies can examine trends in the data or run various simulations based on the data. The integration of all elements of the production process also makes it possible to remotely monitor its progress in real time, as well as to react to any irregularities. All of that would not be possible if it wasn’t for the IIoT solutions.
The rise of artificial intelligence
Another modern technological solution that is used in the smart manufacturing system is artificial intelligence. Over the last few years, we have seen a significant increase in the implementation of artificial intelligence solutions in manufacturing. This is now possible, precisely because of the deployment of IIoT devices, which provide huge amounts of data used by AI. Artificial intelligence algorithms analyse the data obtained and search for anomalies in the data. In addition, they enable automated decision-making based on the collected data. What’s more, artificial intelligence is able to predict problems before they occur and take appropriate steps to mitigate them.
Benefits for an enterprise
The implementation of Smart Manufacturing technology in factories can bring a number of benefits, primarily in the optimisation of manufacturing processes. With smart manufacturing, the efficiency can be improved tremendously. By having access to data on the entire process, it is possible to react quickly to any potential irregularities or adapt the process to current needs (greater flexibility). This allows companies to avoid many unwanted events, like breakdowns. This, in turn, has a positive effect on cost optimisation while also improving the company’s profitability. Yet another advantage is better use of machinery and equipment. By monitoring them on an ongoing basis, companies can control their wear and tear, anticipate breakdowns or plan downtime in a more efficient manner. This, in turn, improves productivity and even the quality of the manufactured products.
The use of SM also enables real-time data visualisation. That makes it possible to manage – as well as monitor – the process remotely. In addition, the virtual representation of the process provides an abundance of contextual information that is essential for process improvement. Based on the collected data, companies can also run various types of simulations. They can also anticipate trends or potential problems, which greatly improves forecasting. We should also mention here that implementing modern solutions such as Smart Manufacturing in a company increases their innovativeness. Thus, companies become more competitive and employees perceive them as a more attractive place to work.
Will automation put people out of work?
With technological developments and the increasingly widespread process automation, concerns regarding losing jobs have also become more apparent. Nothing could be further from the truth – people still play a pivotal role in the concept of smart manufacturing. The responsibility of employees to control processes or make critical decisions will therefore remain unchanged. Human-machine collaboration will thus make it possible to increase the operational efficiency of the smart enterprise.
So – the intention behind technological development is not to eliminate man, but rather to support him. What’s more, the combination of human experience and creativity with the ever-increasing capabilities of machines makes it possible to execute innovative ideas that can have a real impact on improving production efficiency. At the same time, the labour market will start to see an increased demand for new experts, ensuring that the manufacturing industry will not stop hiring people.
Intelligent manufacturing is an integral part of the fourth industrial revolution that is unfolding right before our eyes. The combination of machinery and IT systems has opened up new opportunities for industrial optimisation. This allows companies to realistically increase the efficiency of their processes, thereby helping to improve their profitability. BFirst.Tech offers an Industrial Optimisation service to analyse and communicate real-time data to all stakeholders with the contained information supporting critical decision-making and results in continuous process improvement.