In the Industry 4.0 field, the term “Smart Factory”, which literally means “Intelligent factory”, stands for an highly digitalized and connected production structure, that has considerable production results and is supported by data and technologies. The aim of the smart factory is to increase productivity and reduce operational costs by working on all the aspects of the productive process: from digital networks to the virtual definition of the product, the remote production and maintenance and the integration with IT systems and analysis. Given this context, which are the steps you need to take to build the perfect smart factory?
The growing diffusion of “smart” machines, that are able to interact both with other machines and the surrounding environment, is accelerating the transformation of productive processes. In order to manage the transition to the Smart Factory it is necessary to consider not only the technological elements, but also the human elements, which include the workers’ training and the organization of personal skill building activities. Let’s take a look together at which are the steps you need to follow to create the perfect Smart Factory!
1. Invest in security
As the Cisco report on smart factories shows, producers today need extremely sophisticated technologies to control the new industrial IoT scenario, that allows the connection of millions of machineries through global networks. The realization of a safe connection among the operative and IT networks is therefore a very important factor in order to be able to work with data in a safe way. A safe network allows to expand the accessibility to data, allowing at the same time a better collaboration among businesses, a better Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) and a better quality of products. That’s not everything: a safe and integrated IT network can help producers in the process of solving environmental, health and security problems inside their installations, reducing thus all the risks.
2. Develop wireless connections
In order to build a connected factory that is able to perform and answer rapidly to the clients’ request and the market’s changes, wireless connectivity is fundamental. The industrial equipments that use wireless connection help businesses in the process of improving their productivity, for example by allowing real-time decisions. The future of production is therefore linked to the wireless potential: a revolution that has drastically changed the technologies we use every day and that is now becoming part also of the industrial sector.
3. Use the Collaboration Technology
The collaboration technology (software for video calls, data sharing etc.) can help producers to overcome the everyday challenges linked to the improvement of processes, remote maintenance operations and IoT. In the modern industry a collaborative effort coming from the different departments of businesses is required from the initial ideation phase to the final production phase. The sales department, the marketing department, all the engineers, the production department and even the supply chain reps all have to work together in order to realize a more efficient productive process. In a complex scenario like the one depicted, it is possible for example for engineers to access data and work together with the production department in order to act in real-time on production issues, even the two teams are located in separated places. Machineries can also be connected through remote access, so that experts can manage the maintenance process from wherever they are.
4. Make sure that IT and OT departments converge with each other
IT and OT departments have historically worked independently in the industrial production process. However, in order to succeed in today’s industry, it is necessary to develop a stronger IT/OT relationship. For example, let’s consider the factory maintenance process. Today the activity of predictive maintenance regulates the operative process of the production: teams execute their tasks coherently with the maintenance program, allowing the improvement of the productive process from different point of views, which is something that didn’t use to happen in factories until recently. If the convergence of the IT and OT departments is realized, their work becomes more efficient and the whole production can benefit from it.
5. Invest in Data Management
The revolution of the Industry 4.0 allowed the introduction of digital elements in factories, which drastically changed the characteristics of the industry. The connection of network devices, IoT and the application of modern technologies to the industrial equipment allowed to monitor and receive information coming from most of the devices involved in the productive process. The access to this valuable data allows an increase in terms of productivity by reducing the maintenance time and by improving the OEE in general. In order to realize that, a solid data management structure is required: a solid architecture guided by skilled workers, in order to manage the efficiency of the various productive activities. In order to build a successful smart factory, personal skills are important too: the next two steps focus, in fact, on the human element of the process.
6.Digital mindset and soft skills
Soft Skills are important to create value within businesses. Think about problem solving, the ability of solving technical problems or find solutions through creative thinking, lateral and strategic, or through knowledge networking, that allows to identify the valuable information in the network useful to meet the business goals. The digital revolution that is making factories more smart than ever, require workers to adopt a digital mindset too, in order be ready to face the this ever-changing context.
7. Be open to change
In the disruptive context created by Smart Factories, smart factories operate in a fast-changing environment that happens to change often and in considerable ways, where it is very important to be flexible and open to change in order to face correctly this kind of scenario. The new technologies are constantly improving and the innovation is modifying the industrial context: for this reason it is necessary to be ready and have an open mindset, in order to be able to seek all the opportunities that come from the market.
Today we’ve seen the fundamental step necessary to realize the perfect smart factory. Security, wireless development, collaborative technologies and all the other aspects covered today are all elements to refer to in the new industrial scenario created by the 4.0 modern technologies.