Old black-and-white movies of invading outer space robots are an old staple of weekend cable television. Landing on an open field surrounded by stern-faced military staff, guns, tanks, and anxious political leaders, the ships always revealed robots with waving arms and impending doom for humanity.
We've come a long way from fearsome robots resembling a cross between a giant propane tank and the Tin Man on steroids. Today, advanced digital technology solutions are sleek, fast, and empowering to many industries.
And in contrast to planetary domination, for industries like manufacturing, these advances are here to usher in a renaissance for production and empower companies leveraging smart manufacturing technology to become the leader.
We Mean You No Harm
Smart manufacturing uses many advanced and emerging technologies to produce data-driven analytics and turn them into actionable information to create a fully visible and digital factory. Each technology has its place, and most can be customized for any type of manufacturing.
Here are a few of the ways these technology forces can turn your company into a smart manufacturing leader:
- Production Monitoring – Production monitoring software tracks and measures performance. It also facilitates the automation of processes, including autonomous or semiautonomous decision-making at the machine level. It can be seamlessly integrated into a company's ERP, MRP, and other legacy software systems, including QMS and CMMS.
- Advanced Analytics – Advanced analytics are the hallmark of smart manufacturing. They deliver real-time data into consumable, customizable, and relevant insights. Staff can use this data to make decisions at the machine level, while management may use a different set of insights to optimize business models and plan for growth.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) – AI takes the analysis further to deliver prescriptive and predictive value. In many manufacturers, AI can work alongside humans as cobots, performing heavier or more dangerous tasks. In others, the nature of production may enable "lights out" manufacturing where shifts or departments are fully robotic.
- Machine Learning (ML) – As a branch of AI, machine learning is a powerful tool for optimizing processes. Using advanced algorithms, ML systems can work supervised, where they take existing datasets and identify patterns, or unsupervised, where they identify trends from datasets whose value has not yet been uncovered.
- Additive Manufacturing – Better known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing offers enormous versatility for production equipment, product design, and R&D. For production, 3D printing provides spare parts on demand to reduce parts inventory. With product design, models can be produced more cost-effectively to replicate the final product for evaluation. And for R&D, it enables fast iteration and saves material and time over traditional R&D systems.
- The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – IIoT has moved from an emerging technology to an active and vital part of smart manufacturing. This technology combines software, sensors, and edge devices to create a fully integrated data ecosystem. Machines can be programmed to make autonomous or semiautonomous decisions. Data processing and analysis are done in real-time to enable machines to operate and respond faster than human capability.
- Digital Twins – This allows virtual product creation to optimize design, improve quality, and identify weaknesses that lead to better product performance and less waste. As data from production and field performance is added to the data stream, digital twins will develop theoretical or "ideal" KPIs and help identify problems in both product and business processes.
- Edge Computing – Early versions of smart factories and smart manufacturing were highly centralized in a cloud-based platform. But while the cloud-based platform is still a foundational component, edge computing is moving smart manufacturing to a more decentralized concept. Edge computing lowers the bandwidth required for cloud processing – a vital component as the volume of machine data continues to grow. It also reduces machine-level latency, making autonomous and semiautonomous operations safer and more predictable.
- Advanced Robotics – Of course, any analogy about robots should include, well…actual robots. Whether lights out, side-by-side cobots, or robotics used to perform dangerous and sensitive work to make manufacturing safer and more precise, this technology continues to grow and add value to smart manufacturing. These robots also offer a bridge to the gap created by a severe shortage of manufacturing workers.
You Can Be the Leader
While the military isn't mobilizing for an imminent robot invasion, it’s clear that these technologies are not only here to stay but also here to help. If your company is ready to reap the benefits of smart manufacturing, then it’s time to use modern solutions to supercharge processes and become a leader in the industry.
Of course, adopting smart manufacturing software is an important investment decision. To better understand what to do and how to get there, we’ve put together a guide to help leaders like you understand the options available to you and the steps needed to achieve your goals.
Download your complimentary copy of the Smart Manufacturing Software Buyers Guide here.