If you have heard the terms Industry 4.0 and Industrial IoT, then you are familiar with Smart Manufacturing. Far more than a fad, it is fast becoming a trend that is streamlining how things are produced. In this article, we take a look at what smart manufacturing is and five innovations to watch coming from the process.
What Is Smart Manufacturing?
Smart manufacturing is a process that relies on automation to improve manufacturing processes. That technology, in various forms, maximizes productivity. With data collected through the manufacturing process, companies can respond to changes taking place within the manufacturing system to improve products and meet specific demands.
The Benefits of Smart Manufacturing
Smart manufacturing provides businesses with three main benefits. First, is the continual improvement of operational activities. Second, is considerable increases in productivity through the implementation of smart manufacturing practices. With a streamlined process, things get done faster and more efficiently. Finally, costs drop with a finely-tuned process that is regularly tweaked. Machine learning reduces repair costs and the downtime associated with it.
Examples of Smart Manufacturing
According to this resource, smart manufacturing relies on a handful of components. Here are three of the most important examples of smart manufacturing processes.
Big Data is the process of collecting and analyzing massive amounts of information. The goal of big data is to identify and simplify complicated processes. This is done by sifting through volumes of information and learning how a process works and where it can be improved to produce products or outcomes faster and more cost-effectively.
This is a form of automation that implements smart machines. These machines communicate directly with the systems controlling the manufacturing process. In some settings, advanced robotics work together with humans to complete various tasks. Artificial intelligence (AI) machines learn more than they are programmed to do through experiences that further enhance their effectiveness.
In this process something is printed and results in a 3D model of an item. 3D printing is often used in the process of prototyping and design iteration but can also be effective in small-scale production. The process offers quality and speed that can be applied to production lines. The process of printing a model speeds up design and reduces costs associated with product development.
5 Discoveries To Come From Smart Manufacturing
1 – The Pandemic Has Exposed Weaknesses
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on many aspects of the world today. In the world of manufacturing, the pandemic helped reveal weaknesses in the way items are manufactured and shipped. This means that a complete overhaul is required in several supply chains. The effects of COVID-19 exposed specific areas with an overreliance on a weak part of the chain and pointed to the need for a balance in manufacturing locations. If there is anything to be learned from the pandemic, this is it. Smart manufacturing processes can remedy the weaknesses that COVID-19 has so blatantly uncovered.
2 – Even Governments Care About How Items Are Made
Years ago, seminars on smart manufacturing only attracted early adopters; that did not include government officials. With issues related to supply chains becoming more frequent topics in the news, everyone – including the government – is paying attention to how and where things originate. Government officials are making supply chain security and resilience higher priorities and finding ways to assist in keeping manufactured products available through various funding opportunities. Accompanying that effort is a push for change in many significant industries.
3 – Funding Opportunities…
Funding availability for new technology has exploded in the past five years. It has solidified to the point that funds have been established to focus on supply chain technology and transformative manufacturing processes. Many huge tech startups have opted to use IPO and SPAC options to get a foothold into the industry. Funding access is a fast track for innovation, and it has afforded the introduction of new players and ideas to the industry that may have not been possible without such ease of access to financial assistance.
4 – Technology Has Evolved and Matured
In the theme of startups and funding, many new players have entered the game. They all come to the table with new, fresh ideas. Behind them are established companies that have developed technology based on experience. This mature technology is smarter, faster, more automated, and autonomous. As evolution in manufacturing continues, partnerships are forming between older companies and startups in ways that allow the individual talents of new and older companies to benefit each other. The results have proven to be game-changing in most cases and are a result of the constant move towards more smart manufacturing processes.
5 – The Dividend Is Greater
Smart manufacturing puts a whole new perspective on the benefits of new technology. It produces better quality products, improves service and medical outcomes, expands space exploration, and makes better electric vehicles. All of this occurs within an industry that is ever more efficient, has resilient supply chains, and provides stable, well-paid jobs.
Smart manufacturing provides more people with access to life-changing tools and products. These items might never have been so widely available due to cost without the implementation of new technology. In a way, smart manufacturing has followed the principles of inclusivity. Since the technology that has made this greater availability possible keeps evolving, it is fair to say that we are just seeing the beginning of the possibilities. Future generations may never understand what we are experiencing today but will most certainly benefit from it. Far more change and innovation is to come through the door opened by smart manufacturing. Fortunately, the process continues to be adopted by the majority of players in the manufacturing industry.
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