Technology Infrastructure for the Smart Factory

Posted on 20 Dec 2021 by Tom St John

In an interview with Sarah Black-Smith from Siemens at this year's Digital Manufacturing Week, the vital role of technology within the factory was discussed.

Sarah, Head of Factory Operations at Siemens Congleton, revealed some of the discussions that had been had between industry leaders during both days of Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit.

Watch the full interview here

Interview highlights

How has the role of technology changed within the factory and how vital has it become?

I think people have realised that there’s a lot of opportunity to improve productivity – I know we have. If you go back five or six years, we weren’t looking at things like advanced manufacturing, robotics automation, and digital enterprise opportunities.

“We sort of stuck our head above the parapet and took people out of the day-to-day business and realised there was a lot to be gained from a productivity perspective. I think that’s one of the main roles of technology from my point of view.

What will it take to fulfil the ambition of the Smart Factory and how far away are from achieving it?

Interestingly, in the roundtables that we’ve had, (at Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit) there’s been a bit of a split. We’ve been talking mainly about operational technology and IT information technology and how to pull those two teams together to actually lay the foundation for the smart factory.

That’s what yesterday (day one of MLS) was all about – laying that foundation. Today’s session (day two) we’ve had a lot of people saying ‘we don’t know what we need to do to get going.’ So, I think there’s a bit of a bit of a mismatch; some people are already on that journey and some people are still figuring out the best way to get started.

It’s about laying the foundations, I think, was a lot of the discussions that we had, and what are the challenges with with sourcing on that journey? So yeah,

What is the true potential of 5G within the manufacturing industry, and can you discuss some of the applications it could help unlock?

We’ve been talking about some of the applications across the last two days. One of the participants on the roundtable said was that he was initially looking at putting Wi-Fi into his factories. He had a number of different factories – the overall cost would have come to half a million pounds. And he said ‘well, I can’t afford that.’

One of the things that he’s looking at now is whether a 5G network be an option for him. It’s a lot less costly and it would deliver the same solution as industrial Wi-Fi. It’s still being tested to a degree, but we believe there’s a lot of opportunities around 5G for factories that don’t have industrial Wi-Fi already set up – it’s a far cheaper option. And more practically, in terms of not hard wiring everything in your factory – there’s a massive benefit there.

I think people are just starting to realise more of the benefits. Being able to control machinery remotely without having to wire everything up is a big deal in a factory – with all the infrastructure costs that you’d save.

Why not read back over the highlights of the second day at Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit