Manufacturing has undergone a revolution thanks to Industry 4.0, which promises self-sufficient manufacturing processes using machines and devices that communicate via digital connectivity.
The forerunner of smart factories, Industry 4.0, has access to many cutting-edge technologies, including big data analytics, artificial intelligence, sophisticated robotics, 3D printing, and cloud computing.
The widespread use of industrial robots and computer numerical control (CNC) has made manufacturing systems more adaptable. On the other hand, computer-integrated manufacturing has become feasible thanks to computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided processing planning (CAPP). The actual uses of the IoT have made it possible for manufacturers to adopt digital transformations from various perspectives, including improved value chain efficiency, automation, customer focus, and competitive advantages.
What is a smart factory?
The transition to a fully connected, flexible system that can use continuous data from connected operations and production systems to learn and adapt to new demands is what the “smart factory” represents as a step forward from more conventional automation.
To drive manufacturing, maintenance, inventory tracking, the digitization of operations through the digital twin, and other activities across the entire manufacturing network, a smart factory can integrate data from systemwide physical, operational, and human assets. The result may be a more effective and agile system, less production downtime, and a better capacity to anticipate and respond to changes in the facility or wider network. This may result in improved positioning in the cutthroat market.
Many manufacturers already use smart factory components in areas like advanced planning and scheduling using real-time production and inventory data or augmented reality for maintenance. A truly smart factory, however, takes a more comprehensive approach, going beyond the shop floor to impact the company and the wider ecosystem. The smart factory is an essential part of the larger digital supply network, and manufacturers can take advantage of its many features to better adapt to the shifting market.
The manufacturing process requires skills that help adjust product type and production capacity to handle multiple product varieties to keep up with rapid changes in customer demands. Manufacturing needs sufficient functionality, scalability, and connectivity with customers and suppliers to meet these challenges. Traditional factories cannot monitor and manage automated and complex manufacturing processes to effectively produce customized products.
The production system, the product life cycle, and the value chain are less integrated with traditional factories because they have stand-alone and segregated applications. As a result, in a traditional setup, systems are not effectively reused or integrated between real and virtual systems.
The transition from traditional automation to a linked and adaptable system known as the “smart factory” creates an ongoing data stream through highly interconnected operations and production systems that can learn and adjust to shifting customer demands. To power manufacturing, maintenance, inventory tracking, operations digitization, and other activities in manufacturing systems, these factories can assimilate data from physical, operational, and human assets.
Following are the key differences between the traditional manufacturing factory and the smart factory.
- Manual and isolated processes and operations; no integration with different systems and tools.
- Legacy systems with frequent machine failures and increased maintenance costs.
- Tied to systems or machines for data, therefore zero or limited data for decision making; process-driven decision making.
- Limited technology involvement.
- Zero or limited visibility on operations and productivity data.
- Limited innovation in product development.
- Inaccurate asset tracking process and poor resource utilization.
- Poor interoperability.
- The production line is fixed unless manually reconfigured by people with a system power down.
- Digitized and integrated processes and operations with existing systems, new systems, and tools.
- Smart systems with improved machine utilization and reduced maintenance costs.
- Update or receive data on the go, therefore complete data for faster decision making; data-driven decision making.
- Internet-of-things (IoT), sensors, mobile apps, and radio frequency identification (RFID) enabled.
- Increased transparency and visibility on operations and production data.
- Smart and intelligent products.
- Accurate asset tracking using IoT and RFID; improved resource utilization.
- High interoperability.
- When switching between different types of products, the needed resources and the route to link these resources should be reconfigured automatically and online.
Four intelligent features characterize a smart factory:
- Sensors: To analyze behaviors and abilities, these devices can self-organize, learn, and maintain environmental information. As a result, sensors can make decisions that allow them to adapt to environmental changes.
- Interoperability: The coordination between various devices can be improved through interconnection, enabling flexibility in the configuration protocols of the production system.
- Integration: Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) allow for a high level of process integration in smart factories. Artificial intelligence (AI) and the incorporation of human intellectual abilities allow factories to conduct analysis and make decisions.
- Virtual reality (VR) techniques: Using computers, signal processing, animation technology, intelligent reasoning, prediction, simulation, and multimedia technologies to virtualize manufacturing processes, VR, one of the high-level components of smart factories, makes it easier for humans and machines to work together.
Smart factories’ primary goal is to use intelligent production systems and appropriate engineering techniques for the successful and interconnected implementation of production facilities. It is a system of engineering that relies on connection, cooperation, and execution. By connecting devices, smart factories can recognize and assess situations, exchange information, and integrate the physical and digital worlds. This makes smart factories adaptive.
In other words, the smart factory combines physical and cyber technologies. It improves the accuracy of the relevant technologies, improving the manufacturing processes’ performance, quality, controllability, management, and transparency. The manufacturer can adapt the product specifications and other settings of the machines in such a smart factory environment to satisfy customer demands.
A smart factory‘s ability to adapt and change in response to the organization’s changing needs is its true distinguishing feature. These requirements can be divided into several categories: shifting consumer demands, developing new markets, creating new goods and services, improving operational productivity, and utilizing cutting-edge technologies in maintenance procedures. Smart factories are more receptive and predictive to prevent operational downtime and other potential process failures because they can customize and learn from real-time data.