This week, one of the oldest manufacturing trade periodicals, Industry Week, published a list of predictions for next year. At the top of the list was the prediction that, "Manufacturing will move from occasional smart factory use cases to full scale smart factory adoption." Smart factories are manufacturing facilities that have integrated a significant part of their production and operations into digital forms of management. These integrations include robotic production, automated cybersecurity, centralized digital data collection, and other methods of increasing production with digital tools.
People have been worried about the effects of greater automation on the labor market for years. This brings us to the prediction at the bottom of the Industry Week article: the unfortunate likelihood of continued shortages in manufacturing labor, due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, we see optimism generated by the possibility of smart factories juxtaposed with the reminder that the human element is still an integral part of any manufacturing operation, even with advances in technology. It's time to consider what impacts smart factories will have on the sector moving forward.
Modern Day Smart Factories
To see what a true smart factory might look like, look to this interview with Sarah Black-Smith, Head of Operations at Siemens Congleton in the UK. Siemens Congleton began to employ smart technology about five years ago, and it's had the biggest impact on production, according to Ms. Black-Smith: "We sort of stuck our head above the parapet and took people out of the day-to-day business and realized there was a lot to be gained from a productivity perspective." Autonomous production has huge benefits in terms of cutting costs. By automating production, Siemens is ensuring that it remains profitable in spite of the stresses of the pandemic.
What's more, the proliferation of tech start-ups means that finding the right product for the right problem is now easier and cheaper than ever. Cloud-based platforms for project management, job automation, security, and data collection are now much more common and easier to implement. Such tools allow for more efficient management of complex operations.
In addition, other advances have helped Siemens improve its digital infrastructure. In the interview with Sarah Black-Smith, they consider the use of new 5G technology as a means of extending smart capabilities to new facilities, which conceivably would be cheaper than either hard-wiring or installing WIFI. In short, the ease with which a firm can exploit these technologies is much greater than it used to be.
Smart Tech and People
Even if you would rather keep a human-based labor force, there are still benefits to using smart tech in your manufacturing. Artificial intelligence can help track production mistakes and inefficiency. Project management software can make delegation of duties more efficient and organized, and digital data collection can offer invaluable insights into expenses and production levels. Plus, training your workers on new technologies ensures that your workforce remains knowledgeable and prepared for changes in the sector.
If you would like to learn more about the available options for manufacturing smart technology, feel free to reach out to Titan Tech today to schedule a free consultation. A reliable managed IT provider can advise on digital infrastructure building, product research and purchasing, as well as implementation and training.
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