Anyone involved in manufacturing will have heard about dozens of ‘game-changing’ ideas and technologies. Indeed, new technology can be really transformational. The internet. Smartphones. Affordable, powerful computers. Just three innovations that transformed the design, manufacturing, marketing and sales between them. Smart manufacturing is another. It combines custom software solutions and connected technology. They deliver more efficient, streamlined manufacturing processes.
As with any new approach, a lot of the initial talk is about the intricacies of the underlying technology. Many white papers talk about connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and so on. However, when looking for efficiency and cost savings to maintain market competitiveness, results are all that matter.
We will first discuss the underlying technology. After, we will show just what smart manufacturing can do for any business. How it benefits productivity, efficiency and cost control. Also, how it prepares manufacturing companies for the future.
The Components of Smart Manufacturing
Smart manufacturing is a composite of several technological advances. It includes both software development solutions and hardware, working together to reframe the manufacturing process itself. This transformation takes place not just in the factory itself, but across the entire manufacturing process. Everything from product development and planning through to supply-chain logistics. All can deliver more through the implementation of smart manufacturing techniques.
There are several components that work together to deliver the smart environment:
- Sensor Technology
- Custom Software Development
The sensor technology is at the heart of the smart manufacturing process. It uses intelligent sensors across the production facility. They are found within motors, robots that are part of the process, and other equipment. They generate the data that makes smart manufacturing so efficient. Each process throughout the manufacturing process is monitored. This gives an incredibly detailed view of what is taking place.
In addition to the sensors and the data they collect, communication is crucial. In particular the ability to use that manufacturing data to refine the process. It is at the core of any smart manufacturing implementation. The data analysis creates the dynamic production environment that is the goal of smart technology. It is powered by advanced communications throughout the process. From connected devices, including the IoTs components, to materials handling. All are part of the smart manufacturing process.
In-depth data collection provides a better understanding of the process. When combined with an intelligent analysis of the data it refines manufacturing systems. It can also lower costs. These are the main benefits of smart technology. But what does that mean in practice?
More Efficient Maintenance
First, one area of significant cost that is dramatically changed by the implementation of the smart methodology is maintenance. Intelligent sensors can be integrated into motors, bearings and other equipment. Here they monitor wear, temperatures or any other characteristic required. They can provide early warning of failure or other issues.
In a smart environment, this can be done in real time. Providing pro-active responses for maintenance. That gives the ability to perform preemptively, planned maintenance when necessary. Compared to existing solutions of basic maintenance schedules that often involve unneeded cost. This means huge efficiency savings to any organization. All while significantly reducing maintenance overheads for equipment over their lifetime.
Safer, Faster Material Handling
Intelligent sensors and robotic transportation can combine to deliver new material handling solutions. This makes them safer and faster. With sensors detecting people or other obstructions they prevent accidents. With constant data collection and analysis, solutions can be refined to deliver increased efficiency.
Constant analysis means constant refinement. Developing new material handling protocols maximizes productivity throughout the manufacturing process. All while minimizing material or time wastage in the transport system.
Increased Production Flexibility
Of course, the automation of the manufacturing process is where smart manufacturing has attracted the most interest. For good reason too. This is a different kind of automation. In the past individual machines have operated autonomously within a structured manufacturing process. However, smart manufacturing takes this further.
Instead, all automation is integrated together. This provides a flexible solution that can quickly adapt to product variation. At the same time, it maintains efficiency and productivity. This is important. The future of manufacturing is unquestionably heading towards more flexible approaches. Because that allows for greater levels of customization.
Smart manufacturing minimizes retooling downtime. This allows the flexibility required. At the same time, maintaining productivity and efficiency. It really is 21st-century manufacturing in every sense.
The Employment Impact
One area of the emergence of smart manufacturing that has generated negativity is the impact on jobs. However, this is not entirely as simple as the popular narrative suggests. Within the smart manufacturing environment, automation will take over the repeatable tasks. In addition, it will also control those more tedious tasks that already present a recruitment problem. However, that is not the entire picture. In response to the removal of those jobs, the staff will take on more demanding roles within the manufacturing process. Also, additional positions for indirect support of the manufacturing systems will, in turn, create new employment opportunities.
Smart manufacturing has an impact on employment. However, the biggest impact is not on removing jobs, but of changing the nature of manufacturing employment. Instead, providing jobs involving complex, rewarding tasks. These give people opportunities for expanding their skills and knowledge. In tandem with that, a connected, automated process with seamlessly integrated and optimized material handling solution offers more. It delivers a safer, more productive manufacturing environment that benefits all workers.
Conclusion: Custom Software Development is The First Step Toward Smart Manufacturing
When discussing smart manufacturing, many experts get lost in the detail of the technology. Others focus too much on the headline benefits. They are lower costs, increased efficiency and improved productivity. But smart manufacturing is more than that.
Those benefits are a reason to adopt the approach by themselves. However, it is the revolution within the manufacturing environment that is important. The ability to create more rewarding jobs in a safer, more efficient workspace. A more flexible manufacturing process at any scale. These are are the real transformational aspects of the technology. In the long term, they are likely to be the benefits that we will recognize as the drivers of change within the manufacturing industry.
Konverge Digital Solutions’ Custom Software Development are specialists in business transformation. For the past 25 years, customers have been coming to Konverge for help with leveraging technology to meet their organizational objectives. Konverge’s consulting practice includes custom software solutions, Mobile app development, and Inspection & Safety audit solutions with our award-winning product, Field Eagle.
Konverge's software development Toronto is 100% Canadian owned, we work closely with medium and large enterprises across industries and across Canada and internationally, too.