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The Smart Factory leads to ‘clean and green’ manufacturing

Smart Manufacturing uses IoT, simulations & analytics
Smart Manufacturing uses IoT, simulations & analytics

IoT - 'Internet of Things' in the context of manufacturing.

There is a key transformation in the industrial sector called Smart Manufacturing. The driving force behind this significant change is information and communication technologies (ICT), gradually revolutionizing productivity, energy consumption, raw materials utilization, labor and human resources optimization, and more. The idea here is to integrate all aspects of manufacturing processes by utilizing ICT systems, providing information to all levels of employees, in real time, and enabling data-driven decisions to factory workers, managers, and executives.

Smart manufacturing already embodies IoT - the connected world. The Digital Factory is also called the Brilliant Factory, or Brilliant Manufacturing, or the Smart Factory, and is shaping the future of manufacturing in product design, production lines and maintenance services.

Today, we have the technology capabilities to integrate all aspects of manufacturing, from the device level to the supply chain, network the devices through a cloud-based and open-access platform, incorporate several production processes in parallel, and combine their operation with predictive and anticipatory software analytics systems. With this ‘smart’ concept, manufacturers will be able to improve productivity, maximize resource allocation, and cut costs in a more energy-efficient manufacturing process. Production simulations will be used to identify optimal operating conditions for an entire process. For example, the potential to save on energy is significant. By calculating net energy energy consumption by simulating processes in various operating conditions and calibrating results to a baseline of pre-implementation, such information can provide energy efficiency managers opportunities for cost savings.

At the Greentech Media's NextWave Cleantech Investment Conference last week, the Smart Factory seemed an appealing area of Cleantech funding for all types of investors.

Some of the key concepts are:

  • Integrate the virtual world with the real production world through simulation. Simulation utilizes various software applications; it provides the basis for effective product design, allows a complete view of the process, and enables to optimize the entire lifecycle in real production. This involves a ground-base approach: Get information at the beginning of the project and optimize the entire product life cycle. For example, the NASA ‘Curiosity’ Mars vehicle was designed using simulation cycles.
  • Maximize resource efficiency - This can be achieved through an end-to-end product development & production processes.

  • Saving energy: increase efficiency further by continuously optimizing manufacturing equipment and systems. The ability to have visibility to the device-level operations in a simulated world may bring to light opportunities to maximize machine or production line performance, leading to energy savings and more.

  • Use analytics to understand the total process performance and where elements can be optimized. Data analytics has a proven role in simulation, however the challenge is is not the algorithms themselves, but to turn big data into smart information. The quality and timing of data captured are key.
  • Utilize mobile devices throughout the manufacturing process. Mobile (such a tablets or Google Glass-type devices) are being experimented in factories as a tool for maintenance and supervision of operations. For example, Siemens uses iPads on the manufacturing floor.
  • Improve employee engagement in the product life-cycle. By having real time and in-depth view of production costs, energy consumption, man-hours, processes flow, materials used, and resource allocation - managers, at any level, have the potential to make informed decisions and improve the economy of their manufacturing.
  • Engaged employees often mean improved customer engagement.

A report by ACEEE (American Council for Energy Efficient Economy) titled “The Energy Savings of Smart Manufacturing” describes Smart Factory elements and how these can be used (Research Report IE1403). The report examines the communication, interoperability, security and workforce challenges inhibiting faster adoption of smart manufacturing technologies. It also predicts the future of smart manufacturing and how it would transform the industrial sector.

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