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How Digital Transformation Is Changing the Manufacturing Industry?

Gaurav Pratap, An Internet Researcher, started his optimizer journey in 2013. He has a passion for search engine analysis

Manufacturing done by a robotic arm

Manufacturing done by a robotic arm

Introduction

The manufacturing industry is witnessing the fourth industrial revolution referred to as Industry 4.0. At the core of Industry 4.0 are four principles: interoperability, information transparency, technical assistance, and decentralized decision-making. Digital technologies are helping the manufacturing industry in this transformation journey.

The industry is focused on fulfilling the needs to enhance customer experience, cut costs, and increase profitability. For driving, growth, and profitability, manufacturing companies are in the process of implementing digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced data analytics.

Report respondents worldwide believe that digital manufacturing technologies can lead to economic growth.

Report respondents worldwide believe that digital manufacturing technologies can lead to economic growth.

Smart manufacturing Processes

The industry pursues smart manufacturing processes, which involve the latest technology platforms automating the entire factory functioning, remotely connected to computer systems equipped with machine learning capabilities. These connected systems work by learning and simultaneously controlling the manufacturing processes, with maximum output, minimum wastage, and optimized costs.

Intelligent Network: The manufacturer can create an intelligent network across the entire manufacturing chain that communicates and controls each other autonomously through the connected array of machines. This significantly reduces the intervention of operators.

Digital transformation in manufacturing connects people to the right information over the right device, across company boundaries by including suppliers, distributors, and maintenance partners, ultimately improving the business.

Robotic process automation (RPA): The manufacturers will facilitate faster information flow, faster decisions, and greater market responsiveness. Machine-to-machine communications will enable new levels of automation by connecting devices into both operations and business software.

Big data processing and analytics collect and analyze data from IoT-enabled devices. These solutions change the data into a context that can be used to enable people and machines to make better and efficient decisions.

Operation Stock of Industrial Robots

Operation Stock of Industrial Robots

Connecting people, process, and data

The application of digital technologies helps the industry connect people to the right information over the right device, across company boundaries, including suppliers, distributors, and maintenance partners, ultimately improving the business.

Applications of IoT in Manufacturing Plants: Using IoT, manufacturers facilitate faster information flow, faster decisions, and greater market responsiveness. Machine-to-machine communications will enable new levels of automation by connecting devices into both operations and business software.
Machines and equipment used in the factory are sources of data that can be unlocked using IoT connectivity. With IoT, the possibilities of strengthening the manufacturing processes with sensors have come up. This helps in generating valuable data on operations and maintenance activities.

Data processing and Analytics: Big data processing and analytics collect and analyze data from IoT-enabled devices. These solutions change the data into a context that can be used to enable people and machines to make better and efficient decisions.

Machines and equipment: Machines and equipment used in the factory are sources of data that can be unlocked using IoT connectivity. With IoT, the possibilities of strengthening the manufacturing processes with sensors have come up. This helps in generating valuable data on operations and maintenance activities.

Connected supply chain

Through IoT and data analytics, manufacturers can better understand supply chain information in real-time and required changes to meet shifting customer demands. Connecting the production line unit equipment suppliers, all the parties involved can understand the interdependencies, flow of materials, and manufacturing cycle at all points of time.

IoT-enabled systems can be configured for location tracking, remote monitoring of inventory, and movement of parts and products through the supply chain. IoT systems can also collect and feed delivery information into an ERP system and provide up-to-date information for billing and payroll.

Manufacturers will have real-time information access to help them identify issues before they happen, lower their inventory costs, and further reduce capital requirements

Achieving more visibility with smart manufacturing units

With digital technologies, it is possible to ensure that production inline information is made available to decision-makers in real-time. The easy access to information also makes sure that collaboration between managers and systems is achieved much easier.
For instance, with IoT, it is possible to monitor inventories, tank level of fluids in the process, wear and tear of machinery, and production rates. The data collected can be analyzed and sent to the concerned parties in real-time and making the entire process transparent. These also open the opportunity for third party service providers and suppliers to directly participate in operations and maintenance, which are accessible even from remote locations.

Digital technologies can also result in automated systems, which can optimize production units without human intervention. In a system, if all the devices and sensors in a plant are connected, manufacturers can use the information to automate the workflow. Software connected with the systems can be even be used to make machine adjustments like temperature or pressure variations.

Further, energy management can be performed more efficiently. To give an example, IoT-enabled networks having connected energy solutions can reduce peak demand charges. This enables the smooth running of economy model operations. Certain IoT-enabled heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC) can offer integrated weather prediction from analyzing data over a period, which helps manufacturers to understand and plan energy usage accordingly.

Preventive and condition-based monitoring is possible in a manufacturing system based on digital technologies. With sensors, wireless connectivity, and big data analytics it is easier to collect actual performance data and monitor equipment health. Equipment effectiveness can be monitored 24X7 and minimize equipment failure allowing the manufacturer to do planned maintenance.

Aided with digital technologies, the smart industries have these features which facilitate the processes and production.

  • Improved working conditions via adaptable workstations
  • Improved environment protection through optimized use of resources
  • Better occupational safety through increased automation
  • Increased collaboration and training opportunities through consistent data availability
  • Increased innovative capabilities through new technology platforms

When implementing a smart manufacturing unit, data analytics can assist in areas such as forecasting, proactive maintenance, and automation. With the enormous amount of data generated by the various sensors and devices, it is good to have an inbuilt big data analytics system to improve the overall functioning of the unit.

Also, for any smart manufacturing unit it is required to have a standardized IP-centric network that enables all the devices and sensors to establish a bidirectional communication channel and facilitates controlling capabilities among the nodes themselves.

It is essential to collect a wide variety of data from various sensors. The software systems employed for this purpose must have the capability to translate information from the physical world to actionable insights for humans and machines.

Hardware encryption, building security, and network security for data transit are the necessary security measures needed. Secure remote location access to systems can also be needed. The authentication systems must recognize people as well as machines.

Smart Manufacturing - The Future of the Digital

Smart Manufacturing - The Future of the Digital

Challenges ahead

When manufacturing industries worldwide find means to implement digital technologies in their factories, it increases the competition with their peers. Moreover, the pressure to adopt and implement various technologies brings forth a convergence of technologies, requiring greater knowledge and studies on the same.

Cyber-attacks: A big challenge in technology implementation is the risks of cyber-attacks. Connected systems communicate and transfer data among them regularly. If hackers find an entry point at any of these device nodes, it could be used against information extraction, service interruption, or similar attacks.

Minimizing Energy Utilization: Again, the rise of disruptive technologies and innovation creates new market and value networks, and keeping up with them is a challenge. The enterprises must always be on their toes, regularly updating and monitoring the running systems. For example, in an IoT-enabled system, a large number of sensors and devices are simultaneously working, giving rise to high energy needs. This presents the challenge of minimizing energy utilization without affecting the productivity of the plant.

Implementation: There is also the difficulty of designing, implementing, and running the whole system according to rules and regulations set by governments and other regulatory organizations, which often interferes with the factory’s performance and productivity.

Availability Material: The global economy tends to fluctuate due to lack of availability of resources, natural calamities, or a pandemic like COVID-19. These affect all industries, including manufacturing. With costs running high and inadequate availability of required materials and services, implementing any new technology is out of the question. The result is stagnant growth and productivity.

Further, the latest consumer needs to impact the stability of the industry. As a result, enterprises are under constant pressure to handle the quickly evolving consumer demands.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Gaurav Pratap

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