SMART across factory floors. However, the word

SMART
FACTORY

Smart factory is a small step
towards INDUSTRY 4.0 which was initiated by German government in an aim to
computerize traditional manufacturing process. It represents a huge jump
towards  future from a conventional
automated system to a fully functional connected system. And also it replaces
pyramid flow of information

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Automation has always been a part of
the manufacturing process for decades. We have seen various kind of automation
(simple or complicated) across factory floors. However, the word “automation”
means single, discrete process. In order to create a smart factory we need to
merge this discrete process into continuous process, we can achieve this with
the help of cyber-physical systems called Internet of Things (IoT).With recent
advancement in Machine learning, sophisticated cyber-physical systems have been
developed which combine physical machines with business models. Where machines,
products and process are connected to network so they interact with one another
and data flow between them is continuous. Using these data/information entire
production process can be controlled according to the customer demand. It’s
more like combining Business sides with manufacturing side, This in turn improves
customer’s relationship with companies.

 WHAT MAKES SMART FACTORY SO
SPECIAL?

Smart Factory caught center of
attention at HANNOVER MESSE. What makes it so special is that’s its just not
automation but beyond that. Smart factories are designed to operate autonomous
but they can also connect to a global network.

 The ultimate goal of smart factory is to be
flexible as much as possible, ability to transform and adapt itself to the
changing environment – like changing customer needs, expansion of business to
new market, production of new products, process and services. Smart factory
provides feasible solution for some of the issues. It has the ability to learn
and meet changing requirements from data in real time. And can also make a
decision which helps companies to avoid operational downtime, failures, delays,
cost and other losses.

There are various parameters
involved in building a smart factory one of them is “connected”. Smart factories require the machines and materials to
be connected in order to generate the data which can be used to make real-time decisions.
Data generation from new machine is easy because most of them are advanced but
in factories there do exists older model machine as a backup or rarely used.
Data generation from these machines is not that easy but doable, smart sensors
are equipped in and around machines so the data generation is continuous, this
data both from new and older machines are verified and updated.  Combining data’s from operations, business,
suppliers and customers enables us to provide efficient supply-chain processes,
and thereby increasing supply network value.

Second feature in smart factory is optimization which allows process to be
executed with minimal human intervention and more reliable. The autonomous
work(job) flows, harmonization of work in progress products or finished
products or raw materials,  improved job
tracking and setting up, and how much energy consumed in the smart factory can
increase quality, and reduce costs and also throwaway(waste).

Transparency plays a vital role in smart factory. It’s always
better to capture Real-time data from processes or work in progress and convert
the captured data into actionable insights, either for humans or autonomous
decision making. A transparent network can provide a clear vision of what is
happening across the factory floor and ensure the company by providing accurate
information using aids such as real-time updates on production and real time production
positioning, etc.

Dedicated system, employees and computers can anticipate when the
downtime occurs and can act accordingly in preference to taking actions after
problem arises. This feature can include identifying problems, filling up inventory
or stocks, identifying and controlling quality related problems and checking
safety and maintenance concerns. The benefits of the smart factory to forecast future
outcomes based on historical data and real-time data can improve throughput
time, tak time, quality, and avoid problems related to safety.

Responsive flexibility
allows the smart factory to adapt according to changing product demands with
little human intervention. An advanced smart factory has the capacity to change
its configuration (machines and other devices) and flow of material depending
on the customer demand .Additionally; flexibility can improve throughput time
and can become more flexible scheduling

These features provide manufacturers
greater visibility across their factory floors, and allow them to navigate some
of the problems faced by more traditional factories. The goal of a smart
factory is to improve product quality, productivity and responsiveness to
suppliers and customer demand and services.

WHY SMART FACTORY IS NEEDED NOW?

We all know automation
has be around for so long but, why all of sudden, investors are interested in
smart factory. It’s because of the advantages its provide than traditional one

•        
Provides competitive edge over competitors.

•        
Improves supply-chain network.

•        
Decentralization control of production

•        
Capacity to provide cutting edge product design.

•        
Integration of shop floor network to management.

Competitive
edge over competitors

 Smart factories has always been a dream for
many companies due to mass data storage, network bandwidth cost, computing power,
artificial intelligence, machine self awareness, etc. the wait is over due to
recent developments and reduction in prices. Its has become a reality where
companies has invested in smart factory and those who has made an investment
has a advantage over competitors in these areas which will eventually improve
company profit.

Improves
supply-chain network

Since globalization
has become a key factor for trading and purchasing of products, companies has
found a way to reduce the cost of products by shifting manufacturing plant into
host country/concern continent .These shifts are integrated with demand from the
local, international customers, low labour cost, resources  and supply chain . Due to these changes
companies has found a solutions to logistics, reactiveness and agile.

Capacity to
provide cutting edge product design.

Its goes by saying “no
two products are same”, this goes same for the customers who are interested in
one type of product while others are interested in another type of product. For
this very same reason there exists modular machines, these machines are popular
because they share same structure but with little tweaks new type of setup can
be produced  which will in turn help new
product (we don’t have to build machine from scratch ). In smart factory,
machine learning can decide which type of setup is needed for what type of
product, so the final product is build faster than the conventional method.

Integration of
shop floor network to management.

One of the tedious
jobs is integration of shop floor to management. This procedure is like a
lifeline of the whole factory. It provided a hustle free communication from
workers to the top management.  Factory
is not just made up of white collar employee but there also exists both skilled
and unskilled labours who keep production running. So this is vital communication
for smooth operation.

Benefits of
the smart factory

Smart factory program
should orient itself toward the company goals. It addresses wide range of
categories such as Energy efficiency, quality, material, labour and maintenance
costs, safety. These categories, among others, may increase benefits to the
company such as low product ordering times, increased market share, and better
profitability, product quality, and labour force stability. Regardless of
whether, it’s the ability to demonstrate how successful the smart factory is
going to be if investments are made and creating confidence in investors for
future investments.

Energy
efficiency

Smart factory
generates tons of data that needs to be continuously monitored and evaluated, so
that if a problem arises in some areas of manufacturing then it can be
rectified quickly with minimal downtime. The benefits of this type of factory
is that it has the capacity to self diagnostic when problem arise which is one
of the most prominent benefits of a smart factory. Energy efficiency should
translate into lower machine downtime, capacity, reduced setup time, etc

Quality

The self-diagnostics
feature of the smart factory can predict when there is going to be a defect and
can help identifying the source of it. It can be either in machine, workers or
environment. This could help in lower defects and improve lead times, replenishment
times, process times and increase product quality.

Material,
labour and maintenance costs

Traditional
manufacturing companies have a hard time in maintaining material, labour and
maintenance cost due to in effective planning and decision making. Optimized
factory leads to predictive inventory replenishment, better hiring process and
quality maintenance. This can be achieved by integrating all services right from
machine, inventory and workers to a global network. Better integration leads to
better quality product which will eventually lower other variable cost.

Safety

Smart factory has a
greater impact on labour wellness and environmental safety. Since everything is
digitized or autonomous the amount of human error is minimal and can advert
accidents across plant, and carbon footprint on environment is low compared to
traditional factory, which overall increases safety of both humans and
environment.

Smart factory
certainly replaces major of works where humans find repetitive and dangerous. However,
the role of the human worker in a smart factory is not completely eliminated,
smart factory opens door for new opportunities in maintaining IT sides and so.

Transition to
the smart factory:

Making transition is a
not an easy job and takes time. Every smart factory looks different due to setup
in factory layouts, production of parts, machines size and performance and
other factors. However, there will be many differences between smart factories
but the mechanism needed to integrate a successful smart factory is almost same
and each one is important:

1.       
Data

2.       
Technology

3.       
control

4.       
People

5.       
Cyber security.

Manufacturers can
consider which to prioritize for investment based on their own specific
objectives.

Data

Data are the
livelihood of the smart factory. With the computation power of computers, data
can be analysed and provides feedback to the system, since it is a closed loop
control. With these data one can predict operational performance, fluctuations
in supply chain, and abnormalities in a system, and can rectify it before major
breakdown. Data can exist in many form not just operational data of machines
but also data from the environment such as temperature, emissions and etc. How
data are combined and processed varies from factories to factories. For example
in a quality department must consider the data from dust particles before
taking measurement but other department need not necessary takes these
information. 

For a factory to be
smart, manufactures should constantly collect loads of data and analyze it.
Once a smart factory reached a certain position in terms of standards, the data
generation is also increased over time. For example companies must upgrade
their data storage. Data might be represented in form of

1.       
Digital twin

2.       
Digital shadow.

Digital twin servers as a life line
between the physical and digital world. First smart sensors gather information about
real-time status, working condition, or layout which is integrated with a
physical machine. The data from various equipments are connected to a storage
device such as cloud-based system. This input is analyzed against business models.
With the available information new opportunities are uncovered within the
virtual environment that can be applied to the real world, ultimately transforming
your business.

Digital
shadow refers to a set of unique traceable
digital activities, operations that are performed using Internet or on digital
devices. Digital data can also be stored in many ways depending on the
company’s investment. Since it is a smart factory we expect storage as online,
it records everything right from time stamping, ordering of products, workers
time stamping works , etc, using these methods everything can be traced backed
who did what, so there will be hassle free backtracking the sources of error.

Technology

For a smart factory to
function at technological level one must integrate software’s, autonomous
guided vehicles, and other equipments. The benefits of this integration are
that devices and machines communicate with each other and also with the central
network. However, factories need to consider other technologies as Material
resource planning (MRP), Enterprise resource
planning (ERP), processing power, Artificial intelligence (AI), Virtual reality
(VR), and digitized operations.

Control

Since
the smart factory is the ability to self -adapt, learn new things thanks to
Artificial intelligence (AI) – it can impact the conventional process and
business outcome. A self-governing system can carry out many tasks without
human intervention; this will relieve us from making decisions i.e. Machines
can take decisions instead of humans, which will reduce responsive time and
stress.

Additionally
the connectivity of a smart factory can extend beyond a single plant and it can
connect sub plants, suppliers which creates a new value chain. For example if
there is an OEM manufacturer of Automotive industry who gets parts from  suppliers, the OEM manufactures expects his
parts to be available as quick as possible. So the solution is integration the
business together. This type of merge raises questions in new business models
and also provides a bird sight view of what’s happening across the
organizations.

People

Smart
factory has definitely created impact on people in both ways. There is a fear
among people that robots will replace them in terms of automation. Well
certainly it is, automation will replace some part of manual labour work but also creates new jobs in terms of
automations, better roles and non repetitive task.  There was a recent study in VDI that states
automation will indirectly creates jobs. At the end of the day it’s one’s
perspectives to view. A successful smart factory creates a harmonious
relationship between industries and peoples.

Cyber security

Since
everything is connected in a smart factory, there is always a fear that
information flow might be disrupted by unwanted people in an aim to shut down
factories. So for the very same reasons cyber security need to be addressed. Not
only companies but also suppliers and customers are connected to network, the
risk becomes much more.  The point of attack
on network is possible the weakest link, probably the DSN, or the employers network
or common wifi , these are some of the possible links and its security should
be increased.

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