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What is Smart Manufacturing?

Industry 4.0 has changed the way manufacturing is done. Smart manufacturing is a term coined for advanced manufacturing that adopts information technology smartly from product lifecycle to service life cycles, capturing manufacturing intelligence for intelligent production and services. Smart manufacturing entails a capability of comprehensive, intuitive and multimodal human-machine interaction. Smart manufacturing also takes cognizance of production logistics, which complete fundamental tasks in manufacturing. In simple words, smart manufacturing describes a factory where machinery and equipment are highly automated, self-optimized and improve all processes from planning to execution.

Smart Manufacturing – the Technology Drivers
Smart manufacturing has been made possible by advances in technology. Below are a few technologies that will drive smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0.

Augmented Reality (AR) : Augmented reality is a technologically enhanced version of reality. AR works by using technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed. These images are usually viewed through smart phone cameras or smart goggles. AR allows monitoring of fatigue levels, reduce injury risk and improve employee safety.

3D printing : 3D printers speed up manufacturing processes. Thanks to the innovative use of new printing material available today, 3D printers will allow manufacturers the flexibility to manufacture new products in a cost effective manner.

Intelligent sensors: Sensors today are highly advanced. They can make sense of complex data that allows machines to perform to their fullest capability, eliminating the need for remote processing whilst increasing productivity and efficiency of smart machines.

Connectivity: For smart manufacturing to work, connectivity is a very important aspect. The connectivity solution will need to manage, aggregate, buffer, and process data, and that too in a secure manner. Manufacturing processes can be connected by a Personal Area Network (PAN), Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN), Virtual Private Network (VPN) or Metropolitan Area Network (MAN).  Each network has different strengths and ideal use cases and a strong partner with experience in connecting smart manufacturing systems can help decide which connectivity solution is best.

Automation: Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to play a major role in the growth of smart manufacturing. AI will assist manufacturers inject next-level automation into their processes. Software based on AI can be leveraged in several areas of a smart factory, including planning, scheduling, and predictive maintenance.

Tracking: Keeping track of asset locations is an important aspect of manufacturing operations. Thanks to IIoT and Industry 4.0, goods and items can be tracked continuously through various systems such as supply chain management, ERP, manufacturing execution systems and other IT systems to improve overall efficiency.

Cloud computing: Cloud computing facilitates the development of new products as it allows regular collaboration throughout the design process. It enables employees to prioritize important tasks. In turn, cloud computing allows smart manufacturers to connect to global locations and track the status of the product in a seamless manner.

Security: Security is a constant threat to manufacturers in India and elsewhere. Smart manufacturing envisages the use of Deep Neural Networks to secure communication, preventing frauds. Of course, there are many other ways of ensuring cyber security as well.

Advantages of Smart Manufacturing

According to various surveys by reputed agencies, smart manufacturing is set to grow at a fast pace and is expected to reach about Rs. 14000 billion ($200 billion) by 2022. Led by IoT, smart manufacturing will streamline business operations, optimize productivity and improve ROI. Smart manufacturing fully adopts automation, human-machine interface and full traceability from customer order to delivery.  Smart manufacturing processes use digital information to optimize product, factory, and supply-chain operations. Advances in sensing, communicating, and analyzing digital information have introduced a vast  array  of  new  opportunities  for  increasing  efficiency,  lowering  costs,  and  improving  quality.

Here are some advantages of smart manufacturing:

Efficient use of big data: Smart manufacturing includes automated data collection and provides advanced production analytics. It provides greater access to data across an entire supply chain network. What is more, this data is real time. This allows managers and manufacturers to take informed decisions. Suppliers too benefit as they need to supply exactly what is needed, reducing waste and any downtime associated with missing parts.
Cost reduction: Since smart manufacturers have access to real time, big data, they can identify waste and increase forecast efficiency as they gain better insight into supply chain issues like inventory levels and delivery status. They can also forecast demand cycles with a better accuracy, reducing costs related to excessive inventory or unexpected production volume.

Improve product quality: Big data is one of the salient features of smart manufacturing. As machines communicate seamlessly with smart manufacturing software, the data generated can be utilized to figure out what customer needs are and manufacturers can find opportunities to refine the quality of their products.

Mitigate workforce challenges: Since smart manufacturing implies complete (or almost complete) automation, it reduces the dependency of human work. Since real time access to data across multiple platforms is available, it allows manufacturers to free workers to focus on their core competencies. While smart manufacturing will reduce manual work, it will provide job opportunities for tech savvy workforce who will run the software and analyze the data generated.