One of the hottest trends in manufacturing—particularly in the area of general automation and robotic process automation tools—is “smart manufacturing.” This initiative is the process of transforming traditional factories into profitable innovation facilities. While much can be covered in this sector of smart automation manufacturing, we’ll provide four points as a quick overview of this topic.
What Is Smart Manufacturing?
Smart manufacturing incorporates manufacturing processes with cyber-physical systems (CPS) to collect multiple layers of information into comprehensive and usable data. This process helps improve the efficiency of resources, the sensitivity of production systems, and the opportunity for businesses to develop new products.
More concretely, smart manufacturing is when businesses implement new Industry 4.0 elements like digital twin software, which connects physical representations to digital representations. This is helpful because “[t]he digital thread allows the physical world to interact or exchange information (with the use of sensors, actuators) between its virtual representation and the digital twin. The digital twin is capable to predict, analyze, and support the manufacturing process with expert knowledge.” Current Robotics Reports (2020) 1:35–41
Bringing the speed of digital analytics into the realm of physical manufacturing opens up possibilities for advancement in numerous areas.
Benefits of Smart Manufacturing
Advanced vision system inspection, processing, modeling, and controls in smart manufacturing enable businesses to assess their factories and supply chains in real time. This helps them quickly make decisions that can significantly benefit their bottom line. These types of decisions include:
- Cost savings in material and labor
- Production flexibility
- Shorter product times-to-market
- Greater energy efficiency
- Environmental impact reduction
- Increased productivity
Smart manufacturing requires gathering and processing massive amounts of information. In addition to tools and technology to collect this information, smart manufacturing software helps sort the information. Collecting data does little for a company. Businesses can really only benefit from information and analysis that impacts their bottom line.
That’s why +Vantage is extremely careful about our recommendations for assembly (line) automation. There are many options for transitioning into smart manufacturing, but benefits can only be obtained when the complete system is appropriate for a specific business and its unique application.
Trends in Smart Manufacturing
Robots have already become an essential part of industrial automation because of their working capacity and flexibility. From the beginning, the interactions between humans and robots have been an area of focus in smart manufacturing. Going forward, industrial robot integrators will continue to be a driving force behind Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing.
Humans and robots are already working together in many applications. They will continue to work within the same spaces, and will likely become increasingly reliant on each other. As one researcher has noted, “In the future, the synergy of the skills of robots and humans will be even more important in order to increase productivity and quality, while still maintaining sustainable working conditions and environment, health and safety for humans.”
+Vantage is also at the forefront of this issue. As we see it, smart manufacturing is not just a phase. This new era of manufacturing is long-term, and will require attention and vigilance to ensure that future systems are effective and safe. We can help you make the right choices in picking an appropriate robotic system.
Technologies Driving Smart Manufacturing
Many technologies are driving the advancement of smart manufacturing. Here are a few of the main key areas:
- Robotics and Automation
Two common words tossed around in the industry are “automation” and “robotics.” However, this can be confusing due to the overlap and nuances of these two terms. To understand the differences between them and why that matters when automating a business’s manufacturing, read this article.
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Machine learning solutions offer unique capabilities that allow systems to identify patterns and trends, and then adjust operations accordingly. Learn more about the powerful benefits of artificial intelligence in manufacturing.
- Cloud Technologies
Cloud computing is composed of several services such as servers, databases, networking, and software. These technologies give businesses access to data or services without needing physical infrastructure. This increases the speed at which information is received, and helps keep costs for retrieving that data at a minimum. Whatever your business may need, +Vantage has a team of experts ready to help your new production program come to life.
- Internet of Things (IoT)
Using cloud technologies, physical objects (things) can be connected to sensors and to each other to enhance their own capabilities. In manufacturing, an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is an expansive network of machines and objects installed with sensors, software, and other technologies. This enables these objects to share information over the internet. Improvements and adjustments can then be made more rapidly using this accessible information. This relationship between cloud technologies and IoT opens possibilities in comprehensive turnkey systems.
There are even more technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, and interoperability, which are also becoming used more commonly. Whatever your needs, +Vantage is ready to help you understand which of these newer systems and technologies are right for your business.
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