Today smart machine technologies are boosting material production, improving finished product quality, enabling worker empowerment, assuring more job safety, and driving overall operational efficiency. At a higher level, these important global advancements are resulting in enhanced company profitability and sustainability. In fact, the U.S. Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition — a national alliance of manufacturing organizations, research universities and government labs — has estimated the economic benefits of smart manufacturing that include:
- 25 percent reduction in factory safety incidents
- 25 percent improvement in energy efficiency
- 40 percent reduction in water use
- 10 percent improvement in overall operating efficiency
- 10 percent faster time-to-market
As an industrial automation systems integrator, our company Automatizacion Industrial de Teruel (AIT), a recent winner of the Schneider Electric 2020 Alliance Partner Award, works with manufacturing plant managers and engineers in Spain to address integration, power, production, process efficiency, and maintenance issues surrounding smart machines. We also play the important role of providing experienced technical resources to help clients achieve their IT/OT convergence and industrial automation system modernization goals. When machines can work in sync with their operators, we know that healthy production numbers will result.
The end users we work with are focused on generating maximum high-quality production output within a minimum amount of time. When it comes to implementing industrial automation technology solutions, they look for a low cost of installation, ease of use, and reliable technical support. Many of these clients have difficulty keeping pace with the rate of technology change, and they often find themselves overwhelmed by all the available choices and possibilities. We work with them as their technology advisors and free them up to work more on addressing the business challenges they face in meeting the demands of their own customers.
Why Smart Machines Add Business Value
Smart machines have the ability to connect to multiple systems, to collect data, and to pass that data along for analysis and decision support. Although they operate across many critical points within a factory, no single smart machine controls 100 percent of the production. However, the data gathered during the smart manufacturing process acts as a unifier of factory-wide digital data, mechanical data, and the human interpretation of that data. This was never before possible. Now, unified digital platforms allow manufacturing line workers and operators to take action based on a robust data set which results in faster, more accurate decisions which, in turn, leads to higher profitability, lower energy consumption, and reduced CO2 emissions. In addition, across manufacturing sites where smart machines are prevalent, we have seen reductions in levels of human error, fewer production malfunctions, and lower rates of finished product quality deficiencies.
Transition to Digital Requires Proper Due Diligence
When our clients decide to invest in a smart machine environment, we always advise them to implement the following four best practice steps:
- Focus on the business requirements, not technology – For digital technologies to provide their promised business benefits, clients must clearly communicate a holistic vision of their business requirements and goals up front. This is what will ultimately determine the configuration of the solution and the integration of the new digital solutions into the existing plant.
- Standardize on programming languages and communication protocols whenever possible – Digital systems that are designed to be open as opposed to proprietary offer both short-term and long-term integration advantages. Integration complexity is reduced, resulting in faster implementations and in lower installation, commissioning, and integration costs. In addition, with open systems, the solutions installed today will provide more value in the future. Stakeholders will avoid having to pay for “rip and replace” upgrades when the time comes to further modernize.
- Account for cybersecurity in both product and process – Cybersecurity today is no longer an afterthought or a bolt-on solution. Digital products should be made resilient as they are developed and built in the factory. Once installed, these solutions are supported by services that allow factories to maintain high levels of protection and low levels of risk as the cybersecurity outlook continues to evolve. Organizations that are introducing smart machines onto their plant floors should look to organizations like Schneider Electric to perform audits to reveal any potential weaknesses or exposures in the system. Engineers with security responsibilities should then be consistent in downloading all cybersecurity software updates on a regular basis.
- Update maintenance practices with digitized tools – Remote monitoring of equipment performance is becoming more critical in the age of social distancing. Without the ability to detect and address potential problems before they occur, businesses risk higher downtime and unwanted production disruptions.
For More Information
As we work with more and more clients, we see how smart machine solutions are addressing human resource and process efficiency challenges. Our ability to digitize and integrate factory floor solutions and our close alliance partnership with Schneider Electric, allows us to assemble the team of experts needed to help manufacturers transition to the future.
- For more information about AIT, contact info@AIT-Tereul.com.
- To learn more about how digitized industrial automation solutions can enable modernization and enhance manufacturing efficiency and output, visit the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure™ web site and read these materials.
Congratulations to Automatización Industrial de Teruel for their outstanding
performance as a member of the Schneider Electric Alliance Partner Program.