Is the Factory of the Future Already Here?
In an era marked by constant digital transformation, all technology points to the emergence the “Factory of the Future”.
There is no doubt that the future is digital. We are in the midst of the fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0). And, in order to compete in an increasingly multi-connected market, companies must evolve over time.
Defining the concept of Factory of the Future
The Factory of the Future is also called Smart Manufacturing, Industry 4.0 or Smart Company.
It relates to the use of advanced technologies, such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and automated technology to increase manufacturing productivity and overcome industrial challenges in the new digital landscape.
Through a highly digitized manufacturing facility, the Smart Factory continuously stores and shares data through connected machines, devices and production systems. This data can be used by self-optimization devices or by the entire team to pro-actively solve problems, improve manufacturing processes and respond to new demands.
Executives are optimistic for the implementation of Smart Companies, says research
A global survey reveals that 85% of executives believe they can benefit from implementing elements of the Factory of the Future.
In addition, the survey found that 75% of respondents have already implemented or intend to implement elements of Industry 4.0 by the end of 2021.
The survey, conducted in 2016, interviewed more than 750 production managers from leading companies in automation, engineering products and process industries.
What to expect from the Factory of the Future?
Flexible multidirectional structure, modular lines and sustainable production
The structure of the Factory of the Future has a flexible multidirectional layout, with configuration of modular lines and sustainable production processes.
According to the survey mentioned above, 86% of industrial leaders believe that the “structure of the future” is vital to business for the next ten years. 70% of respondents are convinced that the digitization of industries will be highly relevant in 2030
Such statement can be justified by the fact that consumers are increasingly aware of how products are manufactured. Data from an IT company reveals that 57% of consumers are willing to change their consumption habits to help reduce the negative impact on the environment.
Technological innovations and industry digitization
Manufacturing should also expect considerable innovation in the areas of Information Technology (IT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and Operational Technology (OT), since the premise of Industry 4.0 is to digitize operations.
Another survey, called “Manufacturing Outlook”, shows that the first companies that implemented intelligent manufacturing initiatives (at least partially), achieved measurable results. 82% reported increased efficiency, 49% reported fewer product defects and 45% reported gains in customer satisfaction. The impact promises to grow and be even more substantial as manufacturers and suppliers implement and integrate more disruptive technologies across the manufacturing landscape.
More and more manufacturers are using digital technologies in the industry. Examples are the use of intelligent or collaborative robots, implementation of additive manufacturing, use of augmented reality (AR), cloud computing, production simulations, engaging team training through gamification and the use of Big Data and Analytics.
Optimization and continuous improvement of production processes
Through new digital technologies, manufacturers are exploring the full potential of lean management and taking it to the next level, in order to achieve its full potential.
Lean management is an organizational management perspective based on the Toyota Production System. It consists of a policy of continuous improvement whose foundation aims to eliminate waste in a continuous and systematic way.
According to the survey mentioned above, optimization of the Factory of the Future processes should be even more relevant in the future, with 97% of automotive respondents recognizing that lean management will be highly relevant in 2030. The percentage represents an increase of 27% versus the previous survey edition.
Through Big Data analysis, manufacturers are better at understanding their customers’ consumption needs and behaviors.
Based on this understanding, it is estimated that the factory of the future will use these insights to improve products and production processes.
Main challenges of Industry 4.0
There are many challenges in Industry 4.0. Leaders must overcome challenges such as data security, lack of skill, legacy technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and, of course, connectivity.
The convergence of physical and digital systems in a smart company enables real-time interoperability. However, the vulnerability to information leaks becomes greater. With a large number of machines and devices connected to single or multiple networks, breaches in the data network can leave the factory of the future vulnerable to cyber-attacks and hacks.
Thus, it is necessary for companies to invest in IT security protocols, in order to anticipate possible vulnerabilities of the systems currently in use.
Lack of skill
According to research from a consulting company, the qualification profile of employees will be one of the main challenges of Industry 4.0. This is because the complexity of the subsystems is underestimated.
For new technologies to be successfully implemented and optimized in operations, the company must have a team of leaders with digital skills. In other words, the team must be constantly trained in order to understand the functioning of the new digital tools and how they can help to make the processes more agile, efficient and fluid.
Another challenge to be faced by the leaders of the future is the integration and interoperability of legacy technologies.
Dealing with legacy systems is an ongoing struggle. However, companies now understand that, without interoperability, their ability to innovate is limited. Thus, it is necessary that manufacturers rely on partners and suppliers with a spirit of teamwork to jointly develop and implement solutions that emphasize modularity and that offer paths for updates over time, in addition to integrating the various solutions.
The main premise of Industry 4.0 is to create an increasingly autonomous and highly cognitive ecosystem.
Therefore, it is necessary for industries to invest in technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) to further accelerate efficiency and create new business models, products and services from the data collected and analyzed throughout the production chain.
It is connectivity that will allow the Factory of the Future to become a reality, integrating systems, sharing information and transforming all technology into intelligence.
For that, it is necessary that organizations have smart connection solutions capable of meeting the needs of the most diverse industries, regardless of their location.
How Solvace enables the Factory of the Future
Solvace is the digital platform for Operational Excellence in Industry 4.0. The platform helps manufacturers boost performance with the broadest coverage on the market. Solvace acts to digitize Operational Excellence activities, leading to both higher efficiency and effectiveness.
Solvace’s goal is to empower industry leaders with tools to make their job easier but at the same time connecting plants and different organizations in a management system that promotes performance and knowledge management. Request your free trial today.