Contemporary manufacturing is characterized by speed, efficiency and technology. Since the 1960s, robotics and electronics have been involved in manufacturing processes, many of which are handled by automation; however, much of this automation still requires a fair amount of human oversight to work.

Today, however, digital technology has become increasingly important in factories of all kinds, and digital seems to overtake yesterday’s human-operated robotic automation equipment. Digital technologies have improved connectivity, data collection and analysis between manufacturing equipment and even between facilities, but digital technology alone is not without flaws. Although factories can take advantage of digital technologies that require human intervention and operation, more and more are turning to so-called smart technologies.

The use of smart technology in smart factories

Smart technology is generally defined as technology that uses a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, network connectivity, and automation. These technologies can be a combination of hardware and software, and the ability to network is essential to complex smart technologies.

Many homes and businesses are currently taking advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT). It is a network of smart devices such as household appliances, electronic devices, computers, cell phones, tablets, wearables, etc. All components of the IoT network are able to talk to each other over the Internet, and they can learn and change their behaviors based on how other components are used or operated.

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What is Smart Manufacturing?

Smart manufacturing is the process of using smart technology to create products. A factory that engages in smart manufacturing is a factory that integrates this type of technology into the production process through several phases, but it can also incorporate this technology in various departments.

For example, a manufacturing plant can automate the inventory process whereby items are automatically added to a digital storefront’s inventory as they are produced and stored in the plant’s warehouse. . This process is complemented by intelligent scanning equipment that documents each product as it rolls off the assembly line and into packaging.

Software in this equipment checks finished product totals against packaged totals using radio frequency identification (RFID), removing products deemed damaged or unsalvageable as required. The final total of finished goods can be added to the digital storefront for quicker access by customers. Information collected during the automated scanning and data collection phase can also be automatically compiled into a report that will be sent to the facility’s maintenance department to allow engineers faster access to critical performance updates .

3D printing, cloud computing and smart manufacturing

Since many components and pieces of equipment in the modern smart manufacturing factory are interconnected via the internet, it makes sense that technologies such as cloud computing have started to play a bigger role in the process. Manufacturing. A smart facility can manufacture goods using 3D printing based on design files collected from the web that are shared across multiple devices in the cloud. Customers can collaborate on new product designs using cloud computing, and a manufacturing plant can then access updated files as orders come in.

This not only gives facilities the ability to provide custom manufacturing capabilities, but it also opens up new partnerships with third-party inventors, designers, and vendors. This, in turn, has the potential to create new revenue streams for facility owners. It also provides more opportunities to sell manufacturing services online, as customers can upload their design files from a remote device, and a facility can then input those files into 3D printing equipment to create personalized products quickly.

Are smart factories the future of all manufacturing?

Whether or not the smart factory is the future of manufacturing remains to be seen, but if trends continue as they have over the past few decades, it’s almost certain. Smart manufacturing offers many benefits to manufacturing companies, customers and consumers. It also creates new opportunities for manufacturers who have traditionally only worked in the B2B sphere.

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The agility, precision, and efficiency achieved through the smart technologies involved in modern manufacturing have created a business environment in which business owners who refuse to embrace smart technology will likely be left behind. Technology is also becoming more centralized, hinting at a future where connected technology becomes the rule rather than the exception.

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