Just like smart homes and smart cities, the concept of an intelligent factory has been around for quite some time. The legacy of lean manufacturing and the idea of Industry 4.0 have already wed at round tables. A smart factory handling its operations on its own, is no longer a mere concept.
Factory owners are often rubbing their foreheads on the problems that won’t solve themselves. Turnover isn’t satisfying. Customers don’t wow at the products or service. Productivity, and sometimes even the continuous flow process, is stagnating. Manufacturing errors are scarily not decreasing. Employees aren’t happy and the workflow is really a big mess. Worst of all, they can’t pinpoint the sources of these problems. Is it machinery downtime or do we need a new strategy? Are the batch processes taking up most of the time, or is it the inventory where the delays in production are originating? Why can’t everything be just-in-time like Toyota?
Since humans have a knack for progressing and making life simpler, startups like Smart Plants were created. Thankfully, these factory owners now have places to turn to. However, first, it will be useful to shed some light on the concept of Industry 4.0.
What’s Industry 4.0
For those who have heard it plenty of times but often think: what is all the hype about? Industry 4.0 literally translates to the fourth industrial revolution. Where like every revolution, solutions that reduce manual labor, are more friendly to our planet and are technologically advanced, take over dated ones. I4.0 is a brave new world that is transforming our progression. Where every process in a factory is replaced with futuristic, automated cyber-physical processes. All machines and processes can communicate with every other machine, device and application. Meaning all actions and processes possess ultimate interoperability. This sort of teamwork promises to exponentially cut down failures, delays and costs, without human intervention. There are far too many awe-inspiring benefits and details on i4.0 but I’ll save it for another blog post.
At this point you are probably thinking,”I sort of get what all the Industry 4.0 hype is about and how it is necessary to stay in the game. I should probably make changes in my factory too, but how/where do I start?” Well that’s where the Smart Plants solution comes in. Regardless of the size and age of your factory, Smart Factory incorporates Internet of Things technologies and machine learning algorithms in your existing setting. Connecting all machinery and every operator or user, together to a cloud-based network.
Here’s how it works
- First all your workstations are IoT-enabled. Simple input devices are installed on workstations all across your factory floors.
- Next, based on the level of connectivity already housed in your infrastructure, additional connectivity nodes are added.
- Data collection and analysis begins. Proprietary data-driven middleware gather data from all machinery and devices, and clever algorithms process and analyze the data. They convert it into information you can understand, act upon and derive insights from.
- All this actionable information is made available to you through a powerful but easy-to-use (and visually, quite pleasing) online platform. Here you can not only view what’s going on in your factory right this moment, but also what has happened at any earlier point in time.
- The dashboards on the platforms also generate KPIs based on your organization’s goal metrics. So you can keep track of the difference between the desired and actual performance of your production. Additionally the system also alerts you for situations of notice.
Now I might be reducing a mountain to a molehill by the above explanation but the point to grab is this. With tools and technologies of this caliber in your hands, managing a factory has never been this easy. The system does all the work for you. And since you can remotely access the app, in real-time, you can make important operational decisions on the move. You can change work allocations to increase machinery uptime, use reports to meet quality targets sooner, and do so much more. All without even being physically present at the factory floor!
Sounds overwhelming? Fret not!
Change can be daunting, but only because it is not completely understood. While you may realize that your factory needs to modernize, practically adopting this change might seem like a pretty challenging leap. Specially if you feel like things are going smoothly at the moment. However, staying put where you are may no longer be an option if you want to sustain a competitive edge. According to CapGemini’s recent report, smart factories will be adding up to 500 billion dollars in value to the global economy. And 76% of manufacturers in the world already have a smart factory initiative. No this is not a cheap marketing ploy, this is a fact.
Luckily with the Smart Plants solution you get to keep your employees and machinery and technologies. So that means no parting with assets. And you still reap the benefits of IoT and lean principles such as increased efficiency, increased productivity and some much-earned, increased turnover.
For more details visit the Smart Factory page.