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Smart Factories – Automating Manufacturing with Intelligent Operations


The manufacturing industry is at the forefront of the IoT revolution. Manufacturers across the globe have been able to achieve significant business benefits in terms of efficiency, cost reduction and customer experience by leveraging the power of the connected devices. As per a survey, manufacturing companies have increased efficiency by 82% and enhanced customer satisfaction by 45% by automating their key business processes. The world-wide spending on the Industrial Internet of Things is expected to reach $913 Bn by 2021. And with billions of devices getting connected every year, manufacturers are now increasingly investing on large-scale enterprise-grade IoT projects related to smart factories.

Building a Connected Factory

A smart factory consists of a network of machinery that is connected through a central platform and is usually hosted on the cloud. The machinery and devices in a smart factory are equipped with sensing and communication abilities so that the critical data about the factory’s operations can be aggregated onto a central platform. Once the data is sent to a platform, it can then be processed, analyzed, and used in numerous ways to bring value for the business. Another area of the smart factory has to do with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning which enables manufacturers use data to gain new insights, make predictions, and optimize performance in ways that a human could not do by themselves.

Industry-wide Adoption of Smart Factory Solutions

Whether it’s remote asset tracking, preventive maintenance or an end-to-end implementation, smart factory solutions are getting adopted in some way or the other by the manufacturing units across industries.

  • For instance, in one of the plants of Harley Davidson all the key processes and devices of the production processes are completely connected using IoT. By implementing an IoT-enabled plant, they could not only reduce operational costs by $200 Mn but they could also respond and adapt to market needs faster.
  • Hershey’s has integrated IoT sensors in its manufacturing facilities which provide around 60 Mn data points enabling accurate and précised packaging.
  • Rolls Royce has drastically reduced potential faults and operational defects by leveraging the data from the sensors integrated inside their engines to monitor air traffic, fuel use and engine health.
  • In one of the manufacturing plants of Siemens, around 75% of the supply chain is handled by thousands of automation controllers and machines.
  • A leading German automotive firm has built a powerful analytics platform for predicative maintenance, which is expected to save 700 maintenance hours by optimizing device operations and increasing asset availability.
  • Intel has reduced its manufacturing costs by deploying predictive analytics, which enables them to process around 5 Terabytes of machine data per hour.

Smart and brilliant manufacturing environments like these that are charged with automated self-healing capabilities are making factories more agile.

Preventative Maintenance

For machine-intensive industries, the smart factory can do a number of things, but the biggest value comes from preventative maintenance. Preventative maintenance is when a smart factory can predict when machinery will likely malfunction or operate at a lower efficiency so that they can be worked on to avoid these potential issues. The system can do this by running their factory data through proper machine learning algorithms that will teach the AI which inputs correspond with a malfunction and which do not. Over time, the AI will be able to accurately predict when a machine will malfunction by simply analyzing the real-time data that is being reported on. Other value that a smart factory can bring to Oil & Gas manufacturers are better abilities to adhere to environmental guidelines, improved security, and reduced costs. Petro-CyberWorks Information Technology Company Limited (PCITC) is one company that is making big steps in the effort to implement smart factories in the Oil and Gas sector. They recently partnered with Huawei to start this initiative. PCITC, and other companies like them help facilitate the aggregation and analysis of data regarding the refining and production process so that these facilities can be optimized.

Factory of the Future

The global market for smart factory is expected to reach $150 Bn by 2022. The next-gen factories powered by immense computing technologies, sophisticated sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics and other emerging technologies will become an inevitable reality for every major manufacturer. The ability to gather valuable data about the real-time operations of a factory is paramount in the effort to stay competitive in today’s market. Along with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, this data can improve efficiency, lower costs, mitigate downtime, and make predictions about future events. The value that this can bring is only as good as the data itself, and that is why it is important to focus on.

Today, the question is not whether smart factory solutions are the way ahead for manufacturers – certainly, they are. The bigger question is if manufacturing firms can envision this pathway to brilliant operations and improved efficiencies. A scalable infrastructure with a robust platform to process machine data on real-time, backed up with investment, coherent strategies, and talent will help manufacturers today to become tomorrow’s market leaders.

Supratim Chakraborty
Sr. Consultant – Marketing

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