The smart manufacturing journey requires the modern manufacturing business to undergo a fundamental transformation. It is not just about equipment and technology but will also require a meaningful change on the plant floor, both in terms of operations and people.
Operational speed will be achieved by adopting smart manufacturing strategies. The road to that adoption must be well considered to take best advantage of both the technology and to align the workforce with the new tools they will use.
The speed to adoption is important. Companies that are slow to change will be left behind in a global and competitive manufacturing environment. Manufacturers need a quick and concrete action plan to enter digital manufacturing to deliver better products and improve bottom line results.
In the race to move to a smart factory, manufacturers are getting help from some unique places. Companies not known for their manufacturing presence such as Microsoft, Dell and Intel are trying to stake a claim to the smart factory. The Industrie 4.0 initiative in Germany is a public/private partnership around advanced manufacturing, and the U.S. has a similar initiative in Chicago with the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII). Some of the top industrial suppliers (including FORCAM) and some of the nation’s top universities are its members.
“Manufacturers need a quick and concrete action plan to enter digital manufacturing to deliver better products and improve bottom line results”
Smart and Lean
Lean Management methodology has become a universal phenomenon, but resulting in less potential for differentiation in cost and quality for developed manufacturing countries such as Europe and North America. Manufacturing economies such as China, Mexico, and Brazil offer significantly lower labor costs with high-quality standards in large-scale production as anywhere in the developed nations. But, in the last few years have proven that low wages do not ensure safety and quality, and that productivity and the effective use of equipment really drives great manufacturing. But to do this, manufacturers need data, and the tools to turn that data into action.
The interactions of the real and virtual worlds represent a critical aspect of the manufacturing and production process in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Whether you call it Industrie 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things, technology advances have paved the way for machines not just to produce but the product sets the stage to communicate with other machines. Virtual technology is the backbone of such flexible production founded on the principles of Lean Management and the interconnection of ‘things’ leading the way to a truly transparent manufacturing environment–the smart factory.
The smart factory creates opportunities for production flexibility and allows for radical optimization including sustainable cost savings, less waste, economical and ecological responsibility, and more overall global competitiveness.
Checklist to Transform to a Smart Factory:
So where do you begin? Here’s a seven-step checklist to begin the journey to adopting the smart factory:
Step 1: Acceptance: Success of a smart factory requires management support. All shop floor staff must be supportive and convinced of the advantages and opportunities of the digital transformation. The project must be a top priority and be accompanied by a modern tool set of change management processes.
Step 2: Step-by-Step: Plan well, set small goals, and achievable milestones. A cross-functional “smart factory team” should gather best-practice examples of projects and technology to create an achievable action plan and schedule.
Step 3: Select high-performance smart factory technology: Proven success has been generated by combined technology features provide memory-based (In- Memory) and light speed processing power (Complex Event Processing).
Step 4: Test Pilot: Put smart manufacturing technologies to the test in a critical manufacturing area on more than three troubled machine assets. The advantage of this approach is that main production can continue undisturbed and offer insight on technology and processes. Within 60 days, up to 10 percent of productivity improvements can be achieved.
Step 5: Metrics: Define suitable metrics to control progress and a tsunami of data. Big data transforms to smart data by channeling collected information through desired ratios. The most common metric is Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). This statistic will answer operational questions on how fast (performance), how long (duration) and how well (quality) your product is manufactured.
Step 6: Communicate: Don’t be shy! Introduce a new model for communication. Communicate outcomes of the Test Pilot with all members of the organization. Hold regular meetings to inform stakeholders on deviations, waste, and opportunities for improvement, in daily or shift-based optimization meetings and utilize visual reports. And make sure to take time to celebrate successes.
Step 7: Rollout: Broaden the communication model to all stakeholders of the organization and to customers by using visual aids such as mobile devices and screens on the shop floor. Customers have reported productivity improvements of more than 20 percent.
Global manufacturing faces unprecedented challenges, but there is a bright future for those companies that are able to develop the capacity to innovate. The smart factory is the realization of that innovation.