Smart manufacturing: Tomorrow’s industries will be more sustainable (and much more profitable).
It’s estimated that smart manufacturing could add up to $1.5 trillion to the economy.
Whether you call it Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), or Smart Manufacturing, the power of technology is being felt throughout the industrial world, fundamentally changing value-chains and production methods. So great is this change that Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute predicts that smart manufacturing could add as much as $1.5 trillion to the overall output of the industrial sector in the next five years. This is because of the turbo-charge effect of smart technology: enabling factories to produce more while lowering costs. According to Capgemini, some industries stand to almost double their operating profit and margin.
What does “smart” mean?
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines this new landscape as “fully-integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems that respond in real time to meet changing demands and conditions in the factory, in the supply network, and in customer needs.” Converging and connecting is another way of saying more integrated and more collaborative. This is where manufacturing benefits form a multiplier effect, as operating and information technologies grow stronger in combination, improving efficiency at all levels.
Manufacturing systems are already harnessing a full array of new and emerging technologies. The internet acts as the foundation, linking equipment, sensors, analytical tools, and people in ever more intricate and resourceful ways. Big data, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, 3D printing, predictive analytics: all these things and more are now converging. And with the heightened level of control and oversight that they bring, we can now build a “digital twin” of an entire manufacturing system, and so optimize business performance by creating a real-time profile of a physical object or process.
Lighthouses show the way
The gains from building and operating a smart facility go beyond the production of goods. They embrace planning, supply-chain logistics, workforce, and all aspects of product development and innovation. Businesses that fail to adopt smart manufacturing technologies and practices risk being left behind, which is why we are seeing a growing number of factories worldwide that exemplify the advantages of smart manufacturing.
So, what does the factory of the future look like? The World Economic Forum has highlighted nine of the world’s smartest factories, designating them “lighthouses” that illuminate the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution. That means they have comprehensively deployed smart technologies while maintaining people and sustainability as the heart of their operation. Among these lighthouses is Schneider Electric’s Le Vaudreuil facility in France.
Leading by example
e Vaudreuil is a perfect example of converged power and automation. Drawing on Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure technology, the facility uses a wide range of digital tools to enhance and control operations. EcoStruxure provides a versatile yet flexible IoT-enabled architecture and platform to connect operating technologies with the latest information technologies.
As soon as you enter the factory, you experience the future of manufacturing. For example, mini data centers store critical site data locally allowing greater accessibility and security control, all USB keys must pass through a decontamination terminal, and sensors monitor machinery to predict, instead of reacting to maintenance needs. Moreover, augmented reality accelerates operations and maintenance, resulting in productivity gains of up to 7%, while energy innovations achieve savings of up to 30%. This facility not only showcases the benefits of embracing smart technologies but also the ease at which any business can begin its own digital journey.
Space age solutions
As a high-performance materials manufacturer, Saint-Gobain requires huge amounts of power to serve clients as diverse as the Louvre Museum and the space technology pioneer SpaceX. Through digital innovation, it aims to reduce its energy consumption and, in turn, cut carbon emissions by 20% by 2025. Saint-Gobain is another beneficiary of Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure platform, which is driving operational and energy efficiencies. To track consumption and spend, Saint-Gobain uses EcoStruxure cloud-based software to provide an integrated view of energy and sustainability data and to generate insights on how to make savings. Over the last decade, the manufacturer has saved millions of dollars through connected technologies, helping it to fund further research and development.
What’s next for smart facilities?
The one certainty about smart manufacturing technology is that it will continue to evolve. We are already talking about Industry 5.0, which will focus on the human element. If Industry 4.0 is about machine and system interconnectivity, Industry 5.0 will see human and machine roles blend to become mutually reinforcing and complementary. This will involve so-called “cobots” (collaborative robots) working alongside their human counterparts to create combined strengths.
Although machine learning and artificial intelligence are driving smart manufacturing, human input is still essential. While new technologies possess great autonomy, humans must provide direction and control – and apart from overseeing technology, they are needed to gather, compare, analyze, and apply data. Technology has a pervasive and growing role. It enables a workforce to collaborate differently, breaking down barriers between groups across the whole value chain, but the key message is that smart facilities are empowering the human workforce, not replacing it. Changing the nature of work to be safer and more efficient.
Another important development is the arrival of 5G. It will bring faster downloads and faster responses from applications as a result of lower latency. Sensors will become even more widespread and responsive, and businesses will be able to react to information in real time. At present, a consortium in the U.K. is trialing 5G technology to assess how it can make smart facilities even smarter. Among the possible applications are preventative maintenance and controlling machines remotely.
How fast is 5G really?
5G is set to have download speeds of up to 10 Gbps and could be as much as 100x faster than 4G! With Industry 4.0 already here, and Industry 5.0 on the way, it is clear that manufacturers who want to remain competitive must embrace the latest digital technologies.
Facilities of the future
We use technologies that generate data every day, but what happens to our information after its captured?
Consumer-facing companies are adept at using it for marketing their products, while the healthcare industry uses it to diagnose and treat patients. In the same sense, industrial companies must find ways to better use data to enhance productivity and drive smarter business decisions.
This research paper by LNS Research discusses how data and people can work together to drive unimagined value from the raft of new technologies that enable the factory of the future.