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Smart Manufacturing

What is Smart Manufacturing?

Smart manufacturing is a broad category of manufacturing practices that use computer-integrated systems to transform all physical and digital manufacturing actions into one collaborative and intelligent operation. Through a smart manufacturing operation, companies are empowered to optimize all areas of their business while achieving adaptability, resiliency, and flexibility.

The goal of smart manufacturing is to enhance production performance and identify opportunities for automation. Technologies such as IoT computer-integrated systems enable companies, people, and systems to better collaborate and communicate together.

Key Takeaways

  • Smart manufacturing is about monitoring and optimizing the production process.

  • The core elements of smart manufacturing are Digital Transformation, Big Data, & Interactivity.

  • Without digital processes and computer-integrated systems, smart manufacturing would be impossible.

  • The goal of smart manufacturing is to enhance production performance by discovering opportunities for the automation of processes.

The 5 Pivotal Benefits of Smart Manufacturing

While there are innumerable benefits of smart manufacturing, we can boil them down to 5 main categories.

1. Collaborate All Knowledge

Whether we like it or not, all manufacturing actions, such as assembly, warehousing, finance, and pre-production are all connected. The activities of one department or person will have positive or negative effects on the whole operation. For example, the cycle time of one individual product will affect the customer’s lead time, the ability to start new work, and the need to store more or less inventory.

However, if companies are able to share this type of data internally, they can optimize production and quickly make changes to mitigate problems within the production line or seize opportunities for growth and efficiency.

For this reason, the saying “knowledge is power” has never been more true.

smart manufacturing

The primary benefit of smart manufacturing is the ability to quickly share accurate knowledge. Through computer integration, companies can create an advanced network of data flow that captures tribal knowledge and makes it easily accessible to those who need it.

The greater the collaboration and knowledge sharing between departments, people, and systems, the smarter your manufacturing processes will be.

2. Streamline Processes

Smart manufacturing helps businesses streamline their processes through automated actions. Depending on the industry, smart manufacturing technologies will perform mundane easy procedures so that people can focus on greater growth opportunities.

For example, collecting production data used to be recorded on paper. This took time away from the value-added work of the operator. Now, with smart manufacturing tools like work instruction software, this data can be captured automatically with little to no engagement from the worker.

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Pro Tip

Smart forms enable workers to gather data right from their work screens. This advanced process and technology help to streamline the production process while also enabling you to gather information from the best sources of data: your worker

3. Improve Insight

Smart manufacturing opens the doorway for companies to gain valuable data in real time, ushering in a new level of insight. This insight includes:

All of this information can be used to create custom KPIs that are beneficial to the unique needs and circumstances of your operation.

With this greater level of insight being fed by real-time quantitative and qualitative data, manufacturers take control of their operations and perform pinpoint analyses like determining the root cause of a problem, Pareto charts, and value stream mapping. They gain knowledge from every corner of the operation, which helps companies target specific improvement measures that are actually beneficial to the company.

4. Extend Product Life Cycle Tracking

The improved insight of smart manufacturing extends beyond the door of your facility. Smart manufacturing technology like a digital ecosystem enables companies to track information from the acquisition of raw materials to the delivery of the product to the customer, gaining advanced insight into the complete history of the materials and processes that make up their product.

Companies that have this level of knowledge are then able to improve and extend the life cycle of their products with targeted improvements that add value to the operation and the end customer.

5. Mitigate Errors & Standardize Success

Last but not least, smart manufacturing is about maximizing the strengths of all the players within the manufacturing environment. It is about true optimization, eliminating errors, and repeating successes.

While people are incredibly adaptable to change and innovative problem solvers, we tend to get bogged down with precise repeatable processes. Conversely, while machines and systems are incredibly precise and accurate, they are not very flexible or quick to understand change.

Smart manufacturing enables both people and cyber-physical systems to perform the jobs they are good at by combining and sharing their strengths.

smart manufacturing technology

For example, by using a detailed digital guidebook, workers have standardized processes that walk them through their tasks and responsibilities. This smart manufacturing technology uses pictures, videos, and text to accurately represent the required method and/or process. With a detailed guide, people are better able to standardize success and mitigate errors.

On top of that, manufacturing teams are given a tool that allows them to improve their process through feedback and fast communication. If there is a problem on the production line, people are able to quickly spot it and issue an Andon or non-conformance report.

The 3 Pillars of Smart Manufacturing

How do companies experience the above benefits?

Since smart manufacturing is a broad topic within the industry, how these benefits are experienced will range from industry to industry and company to company. But 3 core elements must be present for smart manufacturing to be achieved in any environment.

  1. Digital Transformation: First and foremost, smart manufacturing is about digital transformation. Without digitally evolving your operation and gaining more knowledge, you will be unable to reap the benefits of smart manufacturing.
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Pro Tip

One of the first steps toward digital transformation is the digitization of your processes and procedures. Digital work instructions enable businesses to enhance the capabilities of their workforce while capturing vast amounts of data.

  1. Big Data: Raw data is incredibly powerful, but it is altogether useless if not properly sorted and analyzed. Smart manufacturing rests on the pillar of strong data analysis that transforms data into useful knowledge.

  2. Interactivity: Smart manufacturing is about facilitating intelligent interactions between people and cyber-physical systems. This interaction can be achieved through IoT devices, automated processes, industrial wearables, and more.

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Pro Tip

Did you know that VKS enables workers and industry leaders to truly connect with their manufacturing software, machines, and workforce? It all starts with the connected worker.

10 Smart Manufacturing Technologies For You

There are a lot of smart manufacturing technologies available to modern industry. It can be difficult to choose which ones best suit your needs. However, the below list details the top 10 smart manufacturing technologies that are helpful at any point in your digital transformation.

  1. Digital Work Instructions (Guidebooks): Guidebooks are step-by-step instructions that show workers how to complete a task effectively. They help employees with their duties and obligations.

  2. IIoT (Industrial Internet of things): The use of IoT sensors, machines, and tools, within industrial environments to form an advanced network of data retrieval and insight.

  3. Digital Thread): This technology centralizes and standardizes data so that all company departments share the same information.

  4. Digital Twin: A digital representation of a real-world object, procedure, or environment. This technology enables businesses to create virtual assets and carry out precise simulations.

  5. Cloud Computing: Cloud computing enables users to access digital resources from any location at any time as long as they have an internet connection.

  6. BI (Business Intelligence): BI software is primarily used to gather, organize, and analyze the data produced by various systems inside an organization.

  7. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning): A software used to centrally manage a company's resources, including its staff, financials, and material inventories.

  8. MES (Manufacturing Execution System): A management-level tool used to monitor and regulate the transformation of raw materials into finished items.

  9. Material Requirements Planning (MRP): A system that enables companies to better effectively plan, manage, schedule, and monitor their production processes and material utilization.

  10. Connected Factory Technology: This technology enables manufacturers to share information and knowledge across their manufacturing network to support their people, systems, equipment, and machines.

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