Digital transformation how factories can be smart – The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is making headlines with news of huge profits for manufacturers as the excitement for Industry 4.0 is mounting. Tech sites are praising the latest connected and synchronized devices running 24/7 in smart factories around the world. But even the term “smart factory” can be confusing for those who are uninformed about these issues. Does the factory need to be a brand new, state-of-the-art, fully automated cleanroom facility made of virgin steel and glass? Or is there a way for more modest or even “ordinary” factories to take advantage of digitization, scale up, and even become smart with accessories?
Fortunately, the headline “Industry 4.0” isn’t just a concept from high-tech giants around the world, and the term “smart factory” isn’t just limited to new installations. In fact, any traditional factory can take the first steps on the smart factory journey by adding modularity to their existing installations.
Digital transformation how factories can be smart
Not supposedly smart, really smart
It is important to know that smart factories are not just a trend, they are the latest step in an inevitable change in production. This being the case, the risk of being an early adopter is usually not relevant. So “when should I start the smart manufacturing transformation?” “As soon as you are ready to take the first step.” response can be given. However, it is important to realize that not all tasks, processes, services and procedures can benefit from smart approach and digitization immediately. The whole process depends on the current setup and what the factory owner will need in the future.
a modular approach
Some production lines cycle 24/7, and even a minor adjustment and recalibration can result in huge losses due to downtime. Most installations, however, combine equipment manufactured by multiple manufacturers, some working in isolation and others simply patched together to complete the job at hand. However, with the increasing competition in productivity, manufacturers need every advantage they can get. This naturally highlights digitalization. Approaching production with an overview and isolating stages into modules gives factory owners a chance to see what their current structure has to offer and how it can be improved.
Setting realistic goals
Firstly; It is necessary to identify what works, what does not work, aspects that can be improved, processes that can be accelerated, and elements that can increase quality. These are the first steps towards identifying the points where digitization can help and spotting problems before they try to fix them. You may be able to automate manual tasks on the production line, either entirely or with the help of a collaborative robot. Perhaps you can monitor some of the manufacturing processes and equipment more closely with remote device sensors (the crown jewel of IIoT technologies), thereby generating real-time, valuable data that allows for better preventive maintenance cycles as well as feedback and action responses. In any case, examining existing processes from a new perspective (or with the help of an external partner) offers factory owners a realistic view of what’s going on in their production areas and what can be done to improve it.
Operational technology assessment
How does a factory’s physical and operational technology evolve from OT to IT to information technology? All systems and processes that generate data or that can be used to generate data (for example, with additional sensors) can theoretically be integrated into an IT system and may even have already been implemented via ERP. What about after? With the addition of an intelligent sensor system to accurately determine the performance of the existing installation, the data collected helps plant owners understand what is working well and what needs to be flagged for improvement.
Sensors and automation technology are not the thorny technologies that cause production disruptions as some still fear. In particular, the sensors do not interrupt the normal operation of the production line as they only collect data to provide clear information. Automation technology can be integrated into existing “legacy” lines with the support of expert partners. For example, OMRON has decades of experience in everything from FMCG to food and beverage, packaging to confectionery, pharmaceuticals to home care products. Together with European partners and system integrators, OMRON can support factory owners at every stage of their journey. The whole process depends on what is required and whether the factory owners are ready to take the first step.