Digital Themes

Smart Manufacturing

What is Smart Manufacturing?

Smart manufacturing is a combination of various technologies and solutions, including artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cybersecurity, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and blockchain that are implemented into a manufacturing ecosystem to optimize manufacturing processes by generating and/or accepting data.

Smart manufacturing design is founded on an IIoT method for process analysis. Data analytics can showcase what is needed for a more efficient, transparent, flexible, and ultimately profitable production process. The purpose of smart machines and smart systems is to streamline operations through process enhancement and the automation of certain manufacturing systems. Smart manufacturing is all about collecting and properly utilizing information, and as such, cybersecurity is crucial to the success of smart factories.

IIoT uses data communication systems to connect every device, machine, and process. Each piece of industrial equipment contains sensors that can generate any relevant data and send it through those data communication systems to the cloud or the appropriate software system. This is done to create insight into any dark areas along the production process and to suggest any corrective action to increase efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

Robots with AI capabilities are also being implemented in many manufacturing ecosystems. Typical manufacturing plants have previously employed robots programmed to do single tasks. Now, with smart manufacturing, intelligent robots are on the shop floor, connected with implanted sensors to get data and adjust their actions accordingly. These AI robotics enable perception-based decision-making, something that was previously impossible with only rule-based algorithms. AI can also be applied to smart manufacturing for predictive maintenance, used to discover machine performance, equipment breakdowns, and any operating conditions in real-time.

Digital twins are another part of smart manufacturing, which involves creating a virtual copy of an asset, system, or process using data from system and asset sensors along with algorithms to make data-based process projections. Predictive maintenance systems utilize digital twins as they lead to reductions in time and cost of new product development and eradicate any unplanned downtime. The increased use of IoT platforms, cloud platforms, 3D printing, and 3D simulation software all inspire digital twin adaptation.

Smart manufacturing is not as widely implemented as some other smart technologies, as it is difficult to integrate IIoT into current or older systems. Smart manufacturing concepts need to be introduced in the design of a manufacturing facility to effectively utilize sensors and related technology.

What are the business benefits of Smart Manufacturing?

  • Productivity and Efficiency - Knowledge of precisely how a plant is performing and examining that intelligent data can lead to reduced downtime and maximum plant productivity with more efficient scheduling and rapid preventative maintenance.

  • Flexibility - Quickly adapting to changes in customer demand, reducing operating costs, and accommodating more prospects with new business verticals are all examples of the flexibility afforded by smart manufacturing. Smart manufacturing systems can accommodate various manufacturing environments and production processes and can therefore handle a variety of operational tasks. Advanced sensors technology automatically identifies fluctuation in manufacturing demand, enabling rapid supply chain response.

  • Improved Working Life - Smart factories will likely not progress to entirely autonomous manufacturing by robots. Humans will need to remain in-house to do jobs requiring a reasoning brain or a human touch. This can improve the working life of humans in production facilities, reducing mundane tasks and opening up new and different job opportunities.

  • Worker Safety - Gathering detailed worker, machine, and corporate data to collectively form an all-encompassing data set can afford higher degrees of overall safety and productivity through the use of intelligent automation.

  • Cost Reductions - Identifying waste and increasing forecast accuracy are two ways that connecting operations and enterprise systems can ultimately reduce costs. Smart manufacturing can also provide better insight into inventory levels, delivery status, and demand cycles, reducing the cost of superfluous inventory.
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