Smart Factory: The New Frontier in the Manufacturing Industry

Smart Factory

A smart factory is a digitized and connected production house that depends on smart manufacturing. The concept of the smart factory is an important outcome of the fourth industrial revolution.  A true smart factory integrates the data from physical, operational, and human assets and drives manufacture towards a good level of maintenance, inventory tracking, digitizing operations, and various others activities. These factories have more efficiency, less-manufacturing time, and overall better productivity and keep the company at the top level in its competitive game. Currently, manufacturers are using only the smart factory components in advance planning, real-time production, and monitoring data. A true smart factory is actually beyond that.

The concept of adopting and implementing a smart factory is different and complicated. However, the recent technological advancements have made the manufacturing process flexible and adaptive. These new factories aid the manufacturers in remaining competitive or in disrupting the competition.

The transformation of the supply chain in the manufacturing industry is being updated by the industry 4.0, the mixing of the real & virtual world, Information Technology, and Operational Technology. For complete digital networks, the manufacturers must realize the digital supply network. They need to unlock capabilities i.e. horizontal integration; the myriad operational systems that power any organization; vertical integration’; that connects the manufacturing supplies and end-to-end integration through their entire value chain.

Features of a Smart Factory
A smart factory addresses the myriad issues and ecosystem-wide exerting pressure in an organization. The ability to adjust and learn data in real time in a smart factory help corporations in becoming responsive, proactive, and predictive and enables manufacturers in downsizing the operation and productivity challenges. The benefit of a full automation factory lies in the lower lead times with the customers and overall lower costs. Some surveys suggest that the companies using the smart factory have seen the production capacity improvement of about 25 to 50 percent and fewer defective products.
The major features that a smart factory offers are the connectivity, optimization, transparency, agility, and proactivity. Therefore, important decisions can be made by improving the production process. The users must note that no two smart factories will look or work the same. Hence, the production houses can prioritize the various areas and can select the more relevant features according to their specific needs.

Benefits of a Smart Factory
The initiative to transform or expand into a smart factory demands specific needs of an organization. The reasons for converting to a smart factory are not justified and often vary manufacturer to the manufacturer. The broad categories that define the manufacturer’s journey to the smart factory are quality, costs, assets efficiency, and safety sustainability. Consequently, manufacturers get the ultimate result in the form of a greater spread in the market, improved ability, market share, better quality, profitability, and labor force stability. Regardless of the manufacturing company, the ability to demonstrate the investment in the smart factory values is important to sustain this smart journey.

The Transition to the Smart factory
As two smart factories do not look the same and have a different configuration, similarly there is no single or fixed path to achieve smart factory solutions. Every smart factory looks different due to the variations in its line products and automation equipment. However, the components needed in a smart factory are mostly universal and each one is important. These factors are Technology, Process, Data, People, and Security. The manufacturers can prioritize these components based on their investment and based on their specific objectives.
There are limitless configuration and numerous patterns, which can be used in the smart factory journey. These patterns will define the planning and execution with a preferred pace. The following are the steps, which users can take in order to reach smart factory solutions:
Think Big, Start Small, and Scale Fast

The smart factory investments start from a specific manufacturer’s opportunities. They can create their own path to the smart factory journey at their own level of the network. It would be effective for them to start small at the first, then conduct manageable tests, and gradually scale them.
Staying Grounded in the Needs of the factory

A company’s manufacturing strategies and environment will determine the specific issues of the company and address the way to unlock the value through the smart solutions. They can customize each approach and get the result that meets the needs of smart factory manufacturing.
Do Not Start and End with the Technology

The smart factory requires more than just connected assets. They need a way to store, manage, make sense, and act upon the gathered data. In addition, the company would need the right talent present at the right place in the journey of the smart factory. Every smart factory would require the transformation and support across the technology, design, and management dimension.

In order to achieve a successful journey of the smart factory, the corporations must consider the full array of supply from their partners and customers and that too from start. The investment of smart factory benefits manufacturers in safer and reliable manufacturing plant. The technological advancements and trends will continue to develop the manufacturing industry for the on-demand productions. A smart factory is a direct way for the manufacturers to excel in a dynamic marketplace and competition.

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