Smart factories are more than just buzz – the concept of smart manufacturing has the power to revolutionize the manufacturing industry. The appeal of a smart factory is hard to resist. But, how do you launch your own smart factory initiative?
Start with Goals
Before you start researching what equipment or software you should buy, you have to ask yourself what you want to achieve through smart manufacturing. Do you want to invest in smart manufacturing because you want to be more efficient? Is it to better satisfy customers? Or, are you investing in this initiative to gain a competitive advantage in the market?
Understanding your goals helps you determine whether you’ve reached them or not. If you don’t know where you need to go, you won’t know if you’ve reached your destination.
What Are the Gaps You Need to Fill?
Again, rushing off to invest in new hardware or software isn’t the best use of funds. Start small. Some of your current equipment might “talk” to each other. Figure out which equipment communicates and what it’s saying, because that could be used to your advantage. In addition, systems of record could be integrated with one another to give you deeper insight (the example of an ERP and MES system springs to mind).
Even small investments in simple technologies can yield dividends. Attaching simple sensors to equipment allows you to gather and collect large amounts of information which helps you figure out how to make your operations more efficient.
Assess Your Staff’s Readiness for Smart Manufacturing
In the course of assessing where your gaps are, you might realize that your employees lack the skills to make a smooth transition to smart manufacturing. It’s important to understand where those gaps are so you can figure out how to fill them.
Additionally, it’s not just a matter of skills. It’s also about mindset. Do your employees have the right mindset – do they want to do things more efficiently, or are they perfectly happy with the status quo of manual processes? If the answer is the latter, they’re not ready to make the shift.
Commit to the Journey
As mentioned earlier, smart manufacturing is a journey. And that journey isn’t quick – it’s not a one-step process that you can complete quickly. Smart manufacturing is still an emerging field of technology. What exists today is only the tip of the iceberg – there are more developments yet to come.
You need to keep that in mind when making investments in smart manufacturing. Think to the future and what kinds of innovations could be coming down the road. This won’t be a short or easy road – in fact, it’s being constructed as you travel upon it. However, it’s a journey worth taking, and one that can yield incredible results.