A connected factory uses cloud-based services like storage and analytics to assess historical trends and real-time data collected from manufacturing devices. This type of factory offers a handful of benefits for streamlining and simplifying business functions and identifying areas for improvement or innovation.
These systems can also enable or assist in remote management and monitoring, thereby improving accessibility and the transparency of practices across the factory floor. Because of these benefits and many others, more companies are considering employing the connected factory model for their business.
Data exists in virtually every facet of business. It tells the story of how your business interacts with the world around it. Supply chains can generate vast amounts of data, from sourcing to manufacturing to order fulfillment, and even forecasting and performance. Because of these reasons, implementing data optimization and factory connectivity strategies play an essential role in helping business owners make crucial decisions.
The supply chain helps dictate some of the most critical business decisions as it helps determine current needs and the resources required to fulfill those needs. Therefore, employing an integrated system can make your whole supply chain more responsive, which can help improve the accuracy and timeliness of the data you’re working with and streamline the supply chain process by opening communication channels between all parts of the system.
Smart manufacturing is a new paradigm that encompasses the utilization of computer integration and cloud services as part of the manufacturing process. The connected factory —also called “connected manufacturing” — business model is classified as smart manufacturing. As robotic process automation becomes more commonplace and manufacturing technology becomes more sophisticated and lucrative, adopting smart manufacturing practices is becoming more prevalent for manufacturers looking to create a competitive edge.
The internet of things (IoT) has become a necessity in the smart manufacturing space. IoT describes the process by which tangible items such as cars, fridges, and smart home devices connect to the internet and exchange data between other devices.
The IoT is exemplified by smart household objects like those previously listed, as well as industrial tools. From a manufacturing perspective, connectivity through the IoT allows for faster and more accessible data transfer between objects or even between warehouses. This connectivity can streamline data collection, helping eliminate errors caused by miscommunications and improving machine learning efforts.
There are several advantages to the connected factory model for both manufacturers and consumers, including:
Because automated systems can function continuously, you may see an increase in productivity during usually low production times. This can help you fulfill consumer needs in a more timely manner.
Cloud-based systems are accessible from any internet-capable device, allowing you to manage your systems any time, any place. You can also reprogram systems for new purposes or goals faster and easier than retraining employees.
By having an integrated system, you’re able to track production from beginning to end. This can help manufacturers identify problems, perform quality control, and reassure consumers.
Smart systems offer real-time data, accessible at any time. This increase in responsiveness allows you to make more precise decisions and gives you a comprehensive view of important data.
By automating certain unsafe manufacturing processes, you can remove workers from potentially dangerous situations and decrease the likelihood of at-work injuries.
You’re likely to see lowered costs associated with training and labor when you migrate to a connected factory business model, as you’re able to automate more services and easily reprogram systems.
How your business will achieve a connected factory will depend on strategies you already have in place, and the period by which you need to be fully transitioned and using the new system. You do not have to stop business to start automating systems, but you may choose to if you are interested in quickly making large-scale changes. To begin the migration process to a connected factory model, you can:
Update legacy systems
Invest in cloud migration
Employ analytic tools
Improve network infrastructure
You will want to make sure you account for any necessary installation, training, or updating time to your manufacturing workflow for each change. By planning out these updates, you can make sure that they cause as few disruptions as possible.
Several manufacturers such as Airbus, Siemens, and Caterpillar use IoT services and connected manufacturing models to their advantage.
By utilizing industrial IoT analytic tools, Caterpillar offers data monitoring services to its clients. With these analytics, clients can better understand the current state of their equipment, track fuel efficiency, and monitor active fleets. This enables Caterpillar consumers to make data-driven, proactive decisions about how best to optimize their practices. This, in turn, builds trust in the Caterpillar brand, helping the company maintain and build its client base.
Smart manufacturing doesn’t show any signs of slowing down in popularity. In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute projects that smart manufacturing will generate between $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025. This is further proof that smart manufacturing is a growing and lucrative industry.
As technology continues to evolve, smart manufacturing and the connected factory business model will evolve as a result. Many internet-based services and tools are designed to accommodate this type of growth due to the speed at which change happens. Incorporating connected factory practices into your business can give you more confidence and control over your key manufacturing functions while helping to future-proof your business.
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