What is Smart Manufacturing?

What is Smart Manufacturing?

Smart manufacturing is a specific application area of Industry 4.0 to manufacturing operations and decision making.  It is an umbrella term coined to describe the modern technology-driven approach to information sharing, decision making and automation in manufacturing operations.


Smart manufacturing vs traditional manufacturing

Traditionally, manufacturing was siloed in to physically isolated machines or manufacturing lines. Starting from planning, procurement, production, quality monitoring or logistics, manufacturing operations required meticulous human intervention and coordination at every stage. Inefficiencies were hidden, and getting a granular view of the current state was very difficult.

With low-cost cloud computing, improved internet penetration, and ability to capture data IIoT sensors, and actuate actions to cloud-connected machines, we are now able to break the silos of traditional manufacturing.  With a technology-driven approach, required information can now be made available on-demand, aiding faster decision making, and sometime automate certain decisions.

Deployments of smart manufacturing

Examples of deployment of smart manufacturing could be:

  • Collecting data from the machines either manually, semi-automatically or through sensors embedded in the machines
  • Collating the date to a computing system, hosted either locally or on cloud
  • Centrally analysing the data collated from multiple machines, lines, or even factories and warehouses
  • Manually or automatically identifying trends, patterns and trigger points for certain actions
  • Algorithmically making decisions or suggestive mechanisms to aid human decision.

As smart manufacturing becomes more common and more machines become networked through the Internet of Things, they will be better able to communicate with each other, potentially supporting greater levels of automation.

For example, smart manufacturing systems might be able to automatically order more raw materials as the supplies, allocate other equipment to production jobs as needed to complete orders and prepare distribution networks once orders are completed.

Key challenges in smart manufacturing

While the benefits of smart manufacturing are many, there are obvious challenges with which organizations get stuck and finds it difficult to kick start the journey.  Few of the challenges include:

  • Finding the right “starting point” for the smart manufacturing initiatives.
  • Inability to justify the RoI of such projects.
  • Monolith developments without inter-operability could become a hinderance soon
  • Lack of examples and use case that yields definitive results
  • Requires multi-vendor coordination to solve relatively complex problems
  • Sheer complexity of the the number of moving parts in such an initiative program

Addressing the challenges in smart manufacturing

At Zometric, we are helping solve some key challenges and barriers in the journey by:

  • Developing applications that are API driven and can connect with each other based on authorization
  • Data science and analytics engine to enable complex analysis on-demand
  • Connectors and ETL tools that can import data in a variety of formats, transform and load them in to required databases to real-time and holistic decision making
  • Automated, periodic and event driven analytics and statistical rule-based alerts

Zometric tries to address these challenges through a simple three point “impact” focused approach:

  • Identify high impact (goals/north-stars) areas. Use framework, eg:
    • Yield, Energy, Throughput, Quality, Manpower
    • Quality, Cost, Delivery
  • Think backwards, and identify:
    • Data / KPIs to be monitored, and who needs to monitor what (multi-factory / multi-function / corporate)
    • Mode of raw data collection (manual, semi-automatic, automatic)
  • Agile development, in close coordination with customer
    • Browser based; cloud hosted applications that customers can access during development
    • Start small, validate with users, repeat.
    • Start with manual data import, assess impact, then automate further if impact is seen.

Smart manufacturing impact areas

Few of the impact areas we help address:

  • Cost reduction
  • Improve Yield
  • Optimize for CTQs
  • Supply Chain responsiveness
  • Asset utilization
  • Customer experience
  • Safety & Security
  • Supplier management
  • Logistics traceability
  • Improve Throughput
  • Manpower productivity
  • Bottleneck identification & mitigation
  • Risk Mitigation
  • CAPA effectiveness monitoring
  • Faster resolution
  • Multi-entity coordination
  • Traceability
  • Legal compliance