The manufacturing industry as we know it is undergoing fundamental changes, under increasing cost pressure and the accelerated evolution of technologies and market pressure.
Technological changes require a collaborative development model, especially in innovation. Market evolution is forcing companies to leave the traditional low cost manufacturing model in favour of a customer-centric manufacturing model. The underlying idea is to move from a mass production approach to “tailor-made” production at an affordable cost, which is the essence of Smart Manufacturing that aims to rely on new technologies to develop equipment and production processes.
Smart Manufacturing is now a reality thanks to technologies such as RFID, augmented and virtual reality, use of an extensive range of sensors, IoT (Internet of Things) etc. which facilitate the progressive digitisation of production systems and optimise their interconnection. The Smart Manufacturing also aims to integrate advanced technologies such as autonomous transport, 3D printing or robotics.
Its evolution is gradually moving towards a Big Data management which allows to manage, in real time and in a fully optimised way, an industrial system not very agile by nature, starting from the data collected on the production system and possibly in combination with other related data sources such as, the world economic trend or sectoral market conditions. The Big Data management itself is subject to evolve from a management with human involvement to a management more and more led by artificial intelligence algorithms.
Naturally, the digitisation of such systems is not without question at the level of the IT infrastructure. In this case, all data is transmitted over wireless networks and via the internet. The question of the reliability and availability of these networks is clearly an issue as well as the data protection. The latter is obviously of utmost importance since data security will become one of the top hot spots that can directly jeopardise a company if sensitive data is used inadequately.
Companies wishing to approach Smart Manufacturing are therefore facing new technological and human challenges and these challenges represent very large and highly strategic investment costs. A first step into this would certainly be to identify on the one hand a vision of the future of the company and on the other which technologies are likely to bring the desired level of performance or differentiation.
Subsequently, more practical issues about costs, organisational and human impacts, agility gains or productive capacity, etc will also be identified. Finally, a more in-depth approach to technology, its functioning and its evolution is essential in order to reinforce value-added interest.
As a conclusion, Smart Manufacturing is an inevitable trend that feeds on innovation and which is part of the fourth industrial revolution. In this context, Leyton fits particularly well, supporting clients wishing to embrace this technological revolution.
Grégory Chu Van, Consultant, Leyton Belgium