Industry 4.0 and the smart factory has revolutionized the manufacturing industry and is being implemented throughout the world. The coalition of manufacturing experts and intelligent machines is a force to reckon with and as businesses realize this potential, there is a need for software that can bridge the gap. It is imperative to select the right tailored software which will support and enhance the capabilities of the smart factory. This blog will discuss 5 criteria to look for in the software that will be the backbone of a smart factory, and the ROI that such specially designed software can bring to a manufacturer.
Industry 4.0 and the Smart factory
Our whitepaper on Industry 4.0 describes this radical concept thus: Industry 4.0 involves the integration of machines, mobiles, sensors, work pieces, and IT systems all through the value chain, going beyond the enterprise, to create one integrated cyber physical system, with each part capable of interacting with another part using standard Internet-based protocols.
Smart factories are being created by using the amazing capabilities of this intelligent cyber physical system, where each entity continuously learns and adapts to the manufacturing process and evolves into an expert system with the ability to execute tasks automatically. This automation is a consequence of evaluating large amounts of production and machine data and teaching the machine to make decisions in response to specific situations, which in turn relies heavily on the manufacturing expert’s ability to translate their expertise to the expert system.
Expert knowledge to expert system
The translation of expertise from the manufacturing expert to the expert system involves teaching the system the processes and rules involved in the manufacturing process. This is a continuous process, as the machine learns the responses to specific actions and the ever evolving complexity of tasks in the production process.
This translation is an intricate process, which requires a fair amount of software expertise. The manufacturing expert, although an expert in his domain, is not a qualified programmer to deal with the nuances of this vital task. This is where the right software can make all the difference. It will support the teaching and the learning process, enabling the expert to easily translate his knowledge and expertise into the system.
Choosing the right software
A one-size-fits-all software product will not fulfil the specific needs of a manufacturer. Based on the product, unique processes and business goals, it is imperative that each manufacturer has specially tailored software tools that perfectly complement and support their processes. This tailored software needs to meet certain criteria if it is to match up to the demands of a smart factory. Some of the criteria are:
- Data must be effectively accessed, analyzed and optimized
A production unit generates several terabytes of data every week. This data is vital to designing the automated response system in a smart factory. A software that incorporates adaptive Data Mining techniques will be able to access this data and use it effectively to create these responses.
To illustrate: Data mining techniques can prevent the biggest bane of a manufacturer – production failure. In this method, Sensors to control pressure, flow rates and temperature, along with other critical data are continuously collected and compared to an optimal reference model. Any deviations are thus detected in real time, alerts are communicated to the production manager, and automated responses are executed in order to eliminate the danger quickly and effectively. Creating a rapid alert system, forecasting product failures early on and executing an immediate disaster recovery system are all dependent on the effective and optimal use of data collected and it is vital that the software you choose can accomplish this efficiently.
- Flexibility and responsiveness
One of the main strengths of a smart factory is its ability to respond quickly to changes. This is crucial in every phase from production to supply. Today’s lean supply chain means that the inventory held by the manufacturer, supplier and customer are significantly less. This makes it all the more important that if there are customer order changes, they must be communicated down the supply chain as quickly as possible, and this in turn means that the manufacturer must respond as quickly and make necessary changes to the production process.
Such changes are expensive and cumbersome if done manually, but the strength of the smart factory is that they can be done quickly and efficiently without disrupting the whole production chain. The efficiency of this is largely dependent on the ability of the software to adapt quickly to changes and be flexible to allow for changes and enhancements to the product.
Although the point of a smart factory is automation, it is still important that production managers and staff are aware of the details involved in the processes. They need be intimated about any discrepancies that arise, the automated decisions taken to rectify them, and the effectiveness of the solution. There must be a continuous system of reporting on the status and policy revisions, and this has to be available in real-time. Software that supports this real-time reporting is essential to ensure smooth running of the smart factory.
Industry 4.0 has made possible rapid business growth for manufacturers by improving efficiency of processes and increasing cost effectiveness, and as business grows it is imperative that the capabilities of the smart factory also expand. It must allow for the seamless integration of new machines and data sources that will come with the expansion of the business. Software that supports this integration makes it easier for the manufacturing experts to incorporate the change and maximize profitability.
- Knowledge sharing
Considering the time and effort that goes into translating the manufacturing expert’s knowledge into the expert system, it is of utmost importance that duplication of effort is minimized when it comes to repeating the same process with other machines. This depends on the ability of the tailored software to reuse the knowledge through dynamic models, and allow for customization and change where necessary. This ensures efficient reuse of existing assets, and time and cost savings for the manufacturer.
Increase your ROI with the right software
With the right tailor-made software that incorporates all the above criteria, you can be sure of an exponential increase in your ROI. The right software will support crucial functions like the analysis of data, identification of patterns, tabulation of schedule adjustments, and control all the separate entities and links in the production line, enabling efficient automation and seamless integration. This will consequentially reduce the time and effort spent by manual labor, as well as increase the efficiency of operations. The result will be better customized products at low costs and produced with efficient processes that reduce waste and conserve energy. This means a substantial ROI on all counts.
Industry 4.0 and the smart factory are taking manufacturing to new heights. With the right tailor-made software, manufacturers can reap the best out of the opportunities that Industry 4.0 makes possible. Leave your thoughts on this article.
To know more about how to get that perfect tailor-made software for your business needs, and also for enquiries regarding IoT and Manufacturing, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.