The Smart Factories of the future are closer than you think

Posted on 17 Jun 2019 by The Manufacturer

The changing nature of products and customer engagement is creating new manufacturing segments and reinventing, sometimes even eliminating, others.

In this ever-changing environment, manufacturers need to be aware of the risks of being left behind if they don’t master emerging technologies. But manufacturers need a compelling reason based on business gains and/or competitive pressures in their markets to make this change.

Manufacturing has also been slow, expensive to change, and disastrous when things go wrong. So, why should companies start investing in Smart Factories now? To ensure future survival, and to capitalise on growth opportunities.

50% of respondents to the Annual Manufacturing Report 2019 said that they believe strongly that they have the tools to grow. But 29% are unsure where that growth will come from.

AMR 2019 - Manufacturers believe strongly that they have the tools to grow. But 29% are unsure where that growth will come from.

Let’s look at some of the areas that have high potential for growth:

Getting personal

The need for instant gratification and personalisation is pushing product engineering and manufacturing to new levels of complexity. The customer is changing what they want from products, how they want to consume them and what relationship they have with those who produce them.

To maintain costs and product quality, manufacturers must increase their effectiveness by learning to combine factory automation with process flexibility. In smart factories, processes need to go beyond automation and become autonomous. Smart factories deploys intelligent machines that will make decisions in more flexible and unstructured ways.

The evolution of factory intelligence

Many emerging technologies will be deployed to help create these enhanced capabilities. Artificial intelligence will develop so that it transforms our current understanding of product configuration, production scheduling, and real-time decision-making for optimised profitability.

Data generated from and shared with other smart machines becomes intelligence that ensures that manufacturing assets operate as a balanced system. The need for embedded analytics and manufacturing intelligence across your factory floor and beyond is a necessity to optimise and improve processes and productivity.

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What are the five risks that these businesses believe may prevent or weaken their future growth?

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Product innovation will depend on advanced environments

The digitalisation of the economy is also changing the nature of products. Data will no longer be a by-product of manufacturing processes but will deliver increasingly important insights to both the customer and manufacturer.

Physical, digital, and social capabilities become parts of the same product, inevitably increasing the complexity of the product design, builds, new systems, and collaboration with ecosystem partners.

A hyper-connected business

The exponential adoption of advanced technologies presents a vast array of potential changes and investment demands for manufacturing in the years ahead. Huge datasets, AI and autonomous production will combine to execute complexity that extends beyond the human capacity to manage in real time.

A virtual facsimile of the physical factory will become the interface to production as physical execution becomes increasingly removed from direct human management decisions and intervention.

The future is closer than you think

The smart factories of the near future have already begun their digital transformation and early adopters are beginning to create a competitive advantage. By investing in emerging technology, companies are creating technical expertise and the digital transformation culture they need to succeed and thrive in the years ahead.

At Epicor we believe that having the latest, industry-specific ERP platform, whether on-premise or in the cloud, is paramount to the future success of UK manufacturers. Our technology is an enabler for reaping the benefits of the current and future wave of technological advances our industry is experiencing right now.

We would love to find out more about how we can partner to support your business growth.

GO FURTHER: Industry 4.0 & The Factory of the Future

Smart Factories - Industry 4.0 & The Factory of the Future Webinar - Screen Grab - Epicor UKThere has been a lot of buzz over the past few years about Industry 4.0. In this recorded webcast you will learn what Industry 4.0 is and why it matters to you.

There is a focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart manufacturing, and how these concepts can help in your manufacturing plants.

There are also real-world examples of tools that can help you reduce costs, improve quality, and increase efficiency.

Click here to watch the webcast