It's Time to Get Started with Smart Manufacturing
- By /
Dr. Arvind Tilak
19 Dec 2018
Manufacturing is no longer just about producing a set of products that the customer desires. It entails a large set of complex processes, which when not carried out effectively, can result in massive losses in terms of cost, efficiency and brand value. As the market gets more and more competitive, and customer demands increase, the industry is battling several challenges, that is restricting it from achieving its objectives. The need for improved processes across the entire manufacturing supply chain paves the way for smart manufacturing. According to TrendForce, the global smart manufacturing market is predicted to be worth $320 billion by 2020.
So, what are the current challenges of the manufacturing industry? And how can smart manufacturing help overcome them? Let’s find out!
Current Manufacturing Challenges
Contrary to the belief that the manufacturing sector is on the decline, many countries across the world are thriving in the manufacturing space. While the surge is certainly positive, organizations in even the most modern nations continue to face several challenges. Let’s look at some of the most commonly faced challenges:
- Productivity losses: The inability to track or manage productivity issues due to lack of data and visibility has been plaguing manufacturers for a long time. According to Gartner, 75% of manufacturers say projects across their companies are not managed under a single governance process, making enterprise-wide integration a challenge. Inefficient manufacturing processes, legacy systems, poor maintenance procedures, incompetent supply chain network, and an incapable workforce all contribute to productivity losses.
- Reactive maintenance activities: The onus of efficient manufacturing outcomes lies entirely on the performance capabilities of the numerous equipment and devices. However, with no visibility into the performance of manufacturing equipment, maintenance activities end up being carried out in a reactive manner. This not only risks the overall manufacturing output but also adds substantial costs in maintenance and repair which negatively affects the bottom line.
- Quality issues: Whether imposed by customer requirements or by industry mandates, one thing is certain: today quality has become a critical factor in differentiation and contributes greatly to a manufacturer's brand and bottom line. However, persistent challenges to quality management such as lack of standardized processes, increasing the complexity of the supply chain, poor insight into equipment performance and poor troubleshooting methods continue to trouble small and medium-sized manufacturers alike.
- Manual processes: As demands increase and become more and more precise, manufacturers are under immense pressure to fulfill large orders and deliver goods in time. However, despite advancements in technology, a number of organizations still carry out many processes manually. Such processes are not only time-consuming, they are also more prone to error such as wrong data entry and unauthorized manipulation. What’s more, in dangerous manufacturing conditions, manual processes can also risk the health and safety of workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 2.9 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers.
- Maintaining optimum inventory: Inventory challenges are common in the manufacturing industry. In the absence of accurate demand forecasting and real-time insight into the supply chain, manufacturers struggle to carry out efficient operations, save costs and increase service levels. With no insight into seasonal fluctuations and demand uncertainties, it becomes extremely difficult for manufacturers to stay organized and calm amidst all the chaos.
How smart manufacturing can help
By turning information into insights, and insights into actionable results, smart manufacturing is completely transforming the manufacturing sector: from Internet of Things (IoT) devices, intelligent machines, industrial robots, smart energy management, automated processes – it is poised to bring down labor costs, improve product quality, minimize downtime, and increase production speed. Let’s look at how smart manufacturing can the manufacturing sector address the challenges head-on:
- Smart data acquisition: With the number of equipment, machinery and devices on the shop floor increasing, capturing data from each one of them has become a strong catalyst for driving better efficiency. Smart manufacturing, through the use of IoT and machine learning, enables real-time data acquisition and consolidation from all assets and processes on a single platform. Manufacturers can get end-to-end visibility into the status and performance of every operation, unearth valuable information, turn them into insights and improve efficiency in the long run.
- Real-time access: Insight into overall equipment effectiveness, manufacturing cycle times, quality yields and capacity utilization are extremely important to drive better value. Smart manufacturing enables real-time monitoring that allows manufacturers to know the health of every machine on the factory floor. Such access can enable manufacturers to spot anomalies, predict malfunctions, and improve decision-making capabilities and in-time reaction and intervention as required.
- Standardization: With several processes and operations happening simultaneously within a manufacturing setup, standardization across the organization becomes imperative. Smart manufacturing helps in automating workflows and production systems and in ensuring that every task is carried out according to guidelines and standards. Through standardization, manufacturers can comply with the necessary regulations, ensure data security, drive predictive accuracy, prevent worker injury, and most importantly, focus on core competencies to gain competitive advantage.
- Aggregation and synchronization: As manufacturers use a number of assets within the manufacturing ecosystem, driving efficiency across assets has never been more important. Smart manufacturing enables aggregation and synchronization of data across technologies and brands. Through machine learning and analytics, it enables manufacturers to connect all devices within the landscape and fuel better communication and collaboration between them to boost production efficiency.
- Traceability: As manufacturers spend more time than ever to stay compliant with local and global regulations, maintaining and excelling at traceability becomes extremely important. Smart manufacturing enhances traceability and audit capabilities and enables manufacturers to carry out complex projects with ease. It helps maintain the right inventory levels, allows manufacturers to see the location and quantity of goods, get precise updates of raw materials, work-in-progress and finished products. Such traceability can turn compliance efforts into a competitive advantage and enable manufacturers to gain greater speed and scale over competitors.
Automation, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), robotics, Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), cloud computing and more – technology is advancing at lightning fast speed in the manufacturing sector. Yet, most manufacturers struggle to keep up, let alone stay on the leading edge. By the time they go through the process of examining, getting a go-ahead, acquiring and implementing a new technology, a faster and more innovative technology emerges. And combating global competition is no easy feat. Manufacturers need to make their value known in the marketplace, and the only way to do this today is by getting started with smart manufacturing. With smart manufacturing, manufacturers can make the most of the expertise of their workforce and their assets, mitigate risks associated with poor quality and sluggish timelines while driving better supply chain efficiency, improving your speed-to-market, and keeping pace with the incessant growth.