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How Smart Have Factories Become?
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October 23, 2020 Blog

 

As newer technologies emerge, the means of production have also changed, accelerating innovation and advancement in creating products and services. Over the years, we have seen the utilisation of natural resources such as coal and iron in manufacturing progressed to synthetic or man-made products.

In the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we are now witnessing the use of more sophisticated and smarter technologies. The advancement in technologies is enabling us to have smart factories that leverage data in empowering digitisation and connectivity. But how intelligent have these factories become?

Here are a few technologies that are helping factories to become smarter:

  1. Sensors, for Everything: Almost all the components inside a “smart” factory are now equipped with different sensors for gathering all kinds of data – temperature, pressure, motion, speed, and lots more. Any data from operational, physical and human assets can be leveraged to better monitor and optimise various operations, maintenance, inventory tracking, and a wide range of activities across the entire manufacturing network.
  2. Robotics/Automated Machinery: Automation allows for faster and more efficient processes, and now, there are even more areas of manufacturing and processing that can be automated than ever. For example, there are massive robots that can lift objects up to 500 kg to move them around the factory and futuristic conveyors that can move things in an omnidirectional manner. There are also smaller, more mobile robots that can collaborate with human employees, autonomous drones that can carry out a number of different activities, RPA that can reduce the amount of repetitive and tedious tasks employees have to deal with, and many others.
  3. Cloud Solutions: Since all of its different components generate data and operate with data, it is essential for smart factories to have cloud solutions at the centre of its operations. The cloud enables data coming from sensors to be stored, robots to move intelligently and systems to operate inside smart factories, from objects to people, enabling connectivity – all without the need for running highly advanced, complex and expensive data centres. We can say that cloud has democratised a lot of technologies that are allowing factories to become smarter.
  4. Internet of Things: Speaking of connectivity, the Internet of Things empowers even more communications between the elements of the supply chain. There is even an Industrial Internet of Things which are applied in industrial settings to interconnect sensors, devices, instruments and systems within a smart factory. This technology is bringing a lot of previously “dumb” and disconnected devices and equipment to the digital age, allowing factories to operate with greater context, collect data from different elements and optimise it for smarter operations. It is said that the growth of data will be exponential over the coming years, and a large portion of it will be coming from IoT.
  5. Artificial Intelligence: This list will not be complete without artificial intelligence, a technology that is revolutionising all areas of business. AI and its subsets are probably one of the most important factors in future-proofing smart factories. As factories should be more data-driven, industrial AI will help them in many different ways. With AI, they can design better products, maintain high levels of quality and service, gain a 360-view of the whole supply chain, improve worker safety, evaluate and predict in ways never before possible.

These technologies are enabling factories to become more flexible, autonomous, fast and efficient, utilise data at every step and move forward towards a digital future.

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