World is transforming at a rapid pace, thanks to digital evolution in recent years. This evolution has brought in disruptive changes and has influenced our perception. The recent advancement in technologies like IOT, 3D printing, Cobots, Augmented reality and more are demanding organizations to adopt to digital ways of managing their operations.
Today, everything is referred to as SMART; right from your Smart phone, Smart Homes, Smart Building, Smart Grid, Smart City, , Smart Car and more. On the contrary, about 85% of the manufacturing facilities are still operating in a conventional way, where machines and equipment are working independently without any connectivity to adjacent systems or external world.
This very nature of equipment is a huge bottleneck to embark upon a journey of digital transformation within our factories and make them Smart Factories.
Let us understand what makes a factory smart and future ready.
Machines with local control capabilities, interact with adjacent machines and exchange data with masters (also known as Edge Control) located at site as well as on central (cloud) systems.
Factory personnel can interact with machines and systems to carry out their tasks in a more efficient way with the help of electronic work instructions, right skilled resource handling the operations in a safe and secured manner. Systems shall connect both internal stakeholders (multiple functions within the organization) as well as external stakeholders (suppliers, partners and customers)
Cyber secured systems
Connecting machines and people within a factory and external layers should be secured to protect organization’s data and assets. Secured systems also provide a safer environment and ensure risk free operations.
Looking at the challenges, it is an uphill task to make conventional factories to Smart ones. Hence, the green field plants are conceptualized with digital ready solutions which ameliorate this transition.
Some of the challenges faced by majority of the plants are:
- Connectivity and Integration – Old machines are not capable to interact with external world. OEM’s are not open to share data or protocol information to connect to machines. There is a big gap in IT and OT layer integration which makes it even tougher for data collection and analysis
- Technical and Digital Competencies – Operators, Supervisors, Engineers and management are not equipped with latest digital competencies to transform the factory and sustain the operations. Management’s willingness to understand the technical advancements and transform their business to be future ready.
- Capital investment – Replacement and/or upgradation of machines need capital investment. Management is struggling to understand the Return on Investment with these digital initiatives.
These challenges can be easily addressed with today’s technology advancements, competency building initiatives and bringing cultural changes the way business being managed.
Smart factories play a major role on the way various functions operate to enhance the value for the organization and external eco-system. Let us understand the functions & stakeholders that are expected to get impacted,
- Core functions – Production, Supply Chain, Quality, Maintenance, Industrial Engineering, Warehouse operations
- Support & other functions – Employee Health & Safety; IT, HR-Recruitment & competency building, Purchase, Finance, Logistics, Sales & Marketing
- External – Suppliers, Partners, Customers
This brings us to the fundamental question, why one should invest in Smart factory solutions and digital transformation initiatives. The key expectation from Smart Factory is to enhance Quality, delivery service & efficiency and then achieving the delight for our customers & shareholders.
This is the next big thing in manufacturing after Lean manufacturing, Six Sigma & TPM