Is creating a Smart Factory part of your business strategy?

Posted on 27 Jul 2016 by Tim Brown
A tool manufacturing floor manager analyses smart factory equipment using the Internet of Things (IoT) - image courtesy of Cisco.
A tool manufacturing floor manager analyses smart factory equipment using the Internet of Things (IoT) - image courtesy of Cisco.

Connected devices, Smart Factory, Industry 4.0, Connected Factory, IoT, IIoT - there's a lot of buzz around these relatively new but basically interchangeable ideas.

For the sake of this article, let’s call it ‘Smart Factory’.

In order for UK manufacturing to remain competitive in the global economy manufacturers, both large and small, need to embrace the concept of smart factory.

At the very core of the development of a smart factory is a hardware requirement that most proponents of the various concepts tend to gloss over. However, it is incredibly important that those tasked with the real hands on job of delivering your smart factory understand the technical requirements of both the software and particularly the hardware.

Smart Factory resources

A report from Cisco, which is currently hosted on The Manufacturer, provides some of the important detail you and your team need in order to deliver on the promise of the fourth industrial revolution. I recommend you check it out now.

From lower automation integration costs, to greater operational awareness, to an overall reduction of risk; understanding how to achieve secure plant-wide connectivity between machines, workflows, databases, processes, and people is complex. Cisco has also produced an ‘At-a-Glance’ technical brief (available here) to further explain what is involved in streamlining factory operations.

For many the delivery of a truly connected workplace could involve years or even decades worth of work to achieve. However there are companies already a considerable way down the path to developing their manufacturing plants into smart factories.

Although many manufacturers utilise multiple protocols at different network levels (device, control, information) and various automation vendors deploy different controls and communications protocols, it is possible to link enterprise IT networks with production process control networks.

For all the latest smart factory information, don’t forget to also register for The Manufacturer Smart Factory Expo, taking place 2-3 November at The NEC in Birmingham. TM Smart Factory Expo is an annual exhibition focusing solely on the very latest advances in smart manufacturing including: automation, robotics, embedded technology, IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things), additive manufacturing, servitization, artificial intelligence, and machine to machine (M2M) technologies.