Once upon a time, “smart” technology meant the newest iPod or cool new personal gadget. Now, smart technology is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry with the promise of better and more efficient workplaces: all thanks to the power of automation.
In this article, we cover smart manufacturing: what it is, how automation can benefit you, and what trends you should focus on as we look to the future. Key takeaways include:
- Smart manufacturing is increasingly an entire connected system, not just one or two machines.
- While it involves an upfront cost, switching to more intelligent technologies is worth it for the industry.
- The benefits of advanced manufacturing technology revolve around automation and include better data insights, increased productivity, better maintenance and security, and savings for your company.
- Smart manufacturing will continue to grow in the coming years with emerging industry trends like sensor technology and advanced factory AI.
What is smart factory and smart manufacturing?
Smart manufacturing means harnessing modern technologies to make processes faster, better, and more efficient. While the term is broad and covers many types of innovations, most smart manufacturing falls into one of these categories:
- Artificial intelligence
- Additive manufacturing (3D printing, for instance)
- Cyber security and monitoring
- The industrial internet of things
If you use any of the tools above, you already use components of smart manufacturing technology. To maximize the benefits of automation, you’ll want to go a step further, integrating your machines and systems so you can make the data and process work for you. While smart factories are becoming more and more common, there’s no denying that the technologies require an upfront investment. Many business owners are understandably skeptical that the benefits of installing these smart manufacturing technologies outweigh the costs. While these concerns are valid, we believe that smart manufacturing, especially automation, is absolutely worth the price.
Why should you prioritize smart manufacturing, and what benefits does it create for your business? In the next section, we’ll discuss the advantages of smart manufacturing that make it a must-have investment.
Advantages of smart manufacturers
Because the term “smart manufacturing” is so broad, it’s impossible to quantify all the possible benefits of implementing a smart solution. However, we’ve identified some of the significant advantages of a smart system, so you’ll have the facts when you decide to take the leap and transition your factories. Below are some of the benefits you can expect to see:
1. Better data insights and knowledge sharing
Smart manufacturing allows employees to gather more detailed insights on productivity rates, downtime, pinch points, and other vital areas where efficiency is critical. With this real-time data, it’s easier to make changes, pinpoint problem areas, and ultimately increase speed and efficiency in production. Additionally, when you use smart systems, you allow your employees to share data more quickly across your factory (or factories). Better knowledge sharing leads to better-informed employees, better processes, and better outcomes!
2. Increased productivity
Automation makes a vast difference in productivity! Solutions like AI, robotics, and smart machines minimize downtime and human error. Additionally, the advanced data sharing provided by most smart machines means that you can make changes to improve your process and productivity even more. It’s a win-win for your business!
3. Improved maintenance and sustainability
It’s expensive to buy new machines for your factory, and replacement costs can quickly add up! Smart manufacturing can help lower this cost and improve maintenance practices by sending reports and alerting you if something goes wrong or needs repairing. With most smart systems, you don’t have to rely on a human noticing the malfunction: the machine will tell you if it needs attention. This feature means it’s easier to catch—and fix—bugs before it’s too late.
4. Better security
Depending on the smart manufacturing systems you implement, it can improve your security in many different ways. Smart systems often protect information and intellectual property through firewalls and other security measures. Furthermore, if you automate your security systems, you’ll be able to keep your factory safer and stay updated with real-time monitoring and alerts if something goes wrong. Keep your factory and your data safer with smart manufacturing.
5. More efficient workforce
With smart technology and the automation it brings, you can make your physical workforce smaller and more efficient. Smarter machines, robotics, and AI mean you can scale down your employee base and focus on making your workers more efficient and productive. The hiring shortage of the last few years has emphasized how dangerous it is to rely on temporary positions and job openings. Smart manufacturing can decrease your reliance on the job market, effectively allowing you to train a dedicated, smaller group of core workers.
6. Energy savings
Energy is a considerable expense for most factories, and excessive energy use can also take its toll on the environment. Smart manufacturing can help you decrease your energy use, providing energy efficiency and allowing you to lower prices and stay competitive.
In sum, the benefits of smart technology for manufacturers are numerous. You’ll be able to increase productivity, improve processes, scale your workforce, and make manufacturing cheaper and easier in the long run.
Smart manufacturing industry trends
Considering a switch to smarter manufacturing? Smart factory setups are growing, and 2022 will likely accelerate that industry trend. As technologies improve, you can expect to see some unique innovations catch on over the next few years. Below are some smart manufacturing trends to watch out for and consider implementing:
1. Sensor technology is on the rise.
As we discussed earlier, a valuable function of smart manufacturing is its ability to detect potential issues and alert you as early as possible. Expect sensor monitoring to become more advanced, capable of detecting problems more quickly, and even able to take preventative measures like shutting off a machine if necessary.
2. AI takes its place on the factory floor.
While AI has made some inroads into manufacturing, expect it to become a dominant player in the industry over the next few years. Machine learning and built-in analytics will likely become commonplace as tech innovators harness the technology to make manufacturing even easier.
3. Offsite work opportunities increase.
While remote work has become popular in the post-COVID era, it’s still not the norm in manufacturing. Expect that phenomenon to change as integrated and smart systems allow operators to work offsite. This expected change is valuable for potentially hazardous work environments, allowing workers to stay safe while operating machinery.
The bottom line? Smart manufacturing won’t become stagnant over the coming years! Look for the above trends, and decide now which areas are worth the investment for your company. It’s always a good idea to develop a plan for your factory’s future so you don’t get caught behind the curve.
The old saying “work smarter, not harder” got it right—and with emerging smart technology, you can harness the power of automation to work smarter and improve efficiency. Now is the time to invest in integrated smart systems, from machines that use robotics and sense malfunctions to advanced security that stays alert 24/7.
If you want to upgrade your security and IT to a smart system that works for you, look no further than Expedient! We’ll work with you to create an advanced security solution that keeps your programs and production safe and secure. Contact us to learn how you can harness the smart power of Stress-Free IT!