Evolution of manufacturing: creating a factory of the future

Posted on 5 Aug 2015 by The Manufacturer

Technology is helping manufacturers become more efficient and competitive, but the industry shouldn’t stop adapting, says David Petrucci – vice president of manufacturing analytics at Genpact.

There is no doubt that the rebirth of robotics and automation is transforming the manufacturing landscape.

As emerging Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are integrated into plant floor processes, operations can be run more efficiently, reducing costs and increasing the speed of production output.

David Petrucci is vice president of manufacturing analytics at Genpact. Previously he worked at IBM occupying a variety different roles including director and automotive solution sales leader.

Prior to this, Petrucci worked at Honda as part of the new model launch team, and at Tenneco as production supervisor and manufacturing engineer.

However, the industry needs to continue to adapt. Currently, operations are focused on ‘big data’ software and device level processes, and many decision makers aren’t taking a step back to examine how to implement new transformative advanced analytics into daily operations.

Integrating IoT hardware into plant floor processes

The first generation of the IoT is already here, with smart sensors and intelligent devices within products.

However, manufacturers rarely incorporate IoT into their own manufacturing processes, yet I believe that over the next few years the ‘Internet of Things’ will have a large role in creating the ‘Factory of the Future.’

With the increased demand for products and new assembly lines, manufacturers will begin to look to harness IoT technologies to increase the efficiencies of their manufacturing processes.

A major area of focus will be to drive towards machine learning, making machines smarter on their own to become more efficiently and intelligent based on their environment and what’s around them.

By implementing IoT into the manufacturing process, maintenance issues can be optimised and costs associated with downtime drastically reduced.

The importance of analytics

IoT technologies have the potential to make processes more efficient but in today’s world they also require a dedicated team of data scientists to apply advanced algorithms to mine actionable insights.

It’s all well and good having the ability to mine vast quantities of data from factory processes, but there is a need to make this data relevant, actionable and integrated into daily operations in order to improve processes or drive step change in how we manufacture.

Recently there has been a move to buy analytics products, but the reality is that manufacturers aren’t investing in the data analysts and scientists necessary to run advanced algorithms and apply the data from equipment running on the plant floor, which is stifling results.

As such, manufacturers are now considering what to do next. One option being considered is to look to outsource technologies and analytics to third parties in a joint venture, to quickly drive outcomes. Alternatively, investing heavily internally in building up the whole infrastructure required.

Linking data across sales, marketing and manufacturing

Currently many chief information officers of manufacturing companies are dedicating significant amounts of time and money building ‘big data’ environments and initiatives that support sales and marketing functions, which currently aren’t directly linked to the plant floor.

There needs to be a shift to a more inclusive model where data is used across the organisation, in particular within manufacturing processes to save costs and increase efficiencies.

Industry such as automotive, aerospace, oil & gas and heavy equipment are leading the way on this is the automotive industry as initial investment has already been made to link daily operations with advanced manufacturing analytics insight.

Factory of the Future

There is no doubt that the Factory of the Future – a highly efficient and organised modern manufacturing environment using new technologies and advanced analytics to increase efficiency and profitability – is imminent.

When properly integrated, IoT technologies and innovation will drive better analytics for increased efficiencies and asset optimisation – inevitably providing a healthier bottom line.

At the moment manufacturers are cost conscious and reluctant to “believe in IoT” enough to change their own operations.

Once the whole business is better aligned, from the board across all departments and down to the factory floor, and understand the financial impact IoT can have on their own operations, most will understand the need to invest.

This will help guarantee them greater success and equip them to become fighting fit for the next Industrial Revolution, capable of neutralising low cost labour manufacturing by increasing smart machines and process through the Factory of the Future concepts.