Discrete Manufacturing: Smart Factory Initiatives
30 November 2022
Inforlogic looks at how digital technology adoptions in discrete manufacturing can bring operational efficiencies to scale.
Ongoing global logistics and supply chain issues, in combination with economic turbulence mean that discrete manufacturers are facing some challenging times.
Add to this the continued pressure to reduce their environmental footprint, as well as changing customer expectations and the need for accelerated times to market, and it’s not hard to see why more discrete manufacturing businesses are turning to digital technologies for help.
Aiming to capture growth and increase productivity whilst boosting the quality of products, forward-thinking discrete manufacturers are developing smart factories. Indeed, such smart factories have the potential to transform discrete manufacturing as we know it, moving facilities closer to markets, alleviating logistical challenges and improving visibility right across the supply chain.
For those businesses who are yet to embark upon their smart factory journey, what steps should they be taking and why?
The underlying concept of a smart factory is having in place systems that share and analyse data, guiding intelligent processes across operations, resulting in smarter machines that can lower downtime and boost productivity.
It’s a highly digitised, highly connected production facility that uses a range of technologies, including machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics, to achieve this.
By unlocking insight that’s grounded in data, manufacturers can automate operations, even eliminating redundant processes, to create a more responsive, agile business, able to respond automatically, quickly and effectively to changing demand.
In an era where customers are demanding more personalised products, it’s this flexibility that allows for the much-needed increase in individualisation much more easily than with current ways of working.
To make a start, manufacturers need to know where they should be implementing the right digital solutions to facilitate their transition to smarter ways of working.
This requires comprehensive business visibility, with access to a consolidated view across the entire business, a view which ideally spreads further across the wider supply chain too.
To achieve this, discrete manufacturers need a consistent digital platform at the heart of the business, a platform to unify disparate systems and amalgamate all business information into a centralised location.
It’s then that this information can be analysed and turned into insight, enabling the business to see not only where their biggest inefficiencies and bottlenecks lie, but where they will benefit the most from the application of those digital technologies that form the building blocks of a smarter, more efficient factory.
Discrete manufacturers need to know where automation can replace manual processes.
So, this could be the application of AI so assembly lines are automatically adjusted in-line with not only changing customer requirements but supply chain challenges too.
Connecting all areas of the business allows this to happen, linking all relevant data to facilitate the intelligent automation of key processes right across the organisation.
By increasing automation where possible, discrete manufacturers can free-up staff to focus on more value-add activities.
Many time-consuming processes can be automated with the right application of technology, not only becoming less error-prone but also more efficient.
At a time when many businesses are striving to fulfil their true growth potential, this increased efficiency is vital, helping to build agile and responsive businesses that are able to respond quickly and effectively to not only any challenges that come their way but to readily seize any growth opportunities too.
Slow, error-prone, manual processes are not conducive to building an agile business, processes that increased automation can change.
In a similar vein, the application of advanced analytics to asset data can help businesses to develop predictive maintenance strategies.
So, by automatically collating and analysing performance data from multiple business assets, it’s possible to disrupt the break-fix cycle, instead automatically pre-empting any machinery issues before they impact production.
This means less downtime and more productivity, as well as delivering the potential to extend the lifespan of assets too.
The real-time interaction of people, machines, assets and systems is the cornerstone of building a smart factory.
For discrete manufacturers who have their sights set on achieving this smarter way of doing business, data is key. By harnessing the power of the huge amounts of data that all discrete manufacturers have at their disposal, businesses can drive targeted digital initiatives right across the organisation.
It’s this approach that facilitates the robust, agile and highly automated ways of working that lie at the heart of the most productive, efficient and profitable smart factories.
For more information on how the Inforlogic support team can help you achieve your digital transformation goals, get in touch or call the team on 01606 720499.