Deloitte has identified five components that make a smart factory worthy of the name. The first component is connectivity. While connectivity within factories in and of itself doesn’t represent a substantial innovation, the way connectivity is being used in today’s factories has transformed manufacturing as we know it.
What’s Different about Connectivity Today?
What makes today’s connectivity so different than what has existed to-date? Connectivity has transformed linear, sequential supply chains into interconnected, open systems of supply operations.
It’s no longer about a piece of machinery transmitting data to a siloed database that few people ever access. Today’s connectivity is not only about transmitting and gathering data internally – it’s about sharing that data through the rest of the supply chain for greater transparency.
How Does Connectivity Make Factories “Smart”?
Let’s take a second to define what a “smart” factory is. A smart factory is one that enables smart manufacturing – a technology-driven process that allows manufacturers to improve performance by identifying areas that can be automated. Where does connectivity come into play?
Connectivity is crucial to smart factories. Without it, manufacturers couldn’t gain crucial insights into their processes. We’ll illustrate with an example. Because factory equipment has built-in sensors, decision makers can see output as well as any issues that might affect performance. They can see it all in real time, too.
This data doesn’t live in siloes anymore. Information that could have an impact on another part of the supply chain is readily available thanks to connectivity.
Why Is Connectivity So Crucial to Smart Factories?
Why does connectivity matter so much to smart factories? Without it, they wouldn’t be able to provide the data that powers smart manufacturing.
Let’s say a sensor goes down in a piece of equipment. That sensor transmits information to a number of systems. Without that data, manufacturers are left in the dark as to what’s really going on at the shop floor level. They can’t make the right decisions because they don’t have the most accurate, up-to-date information.
Connectivity powers smart factories, plain and simple. It allows the fast, accurate transfer of data without human intervention. As we know, to err is all too human. Connectivity enables a manufacturing process that is virtually error-free, which saves time and money.
Furthermore, connectivity is the building block for other components in Deloitte’s definition of a smart factory. Without connectivity, it would be more difficult to optimize it, for the factory to be transparent, proactive, or agile. All of those qualities are achieved by constant access to accurate, timely data.
For connectivity to make a factory smart, it must go beyond transmitting data from one piece of equipment to a single, siloed database. It needs to allow the data to get to the right places and people within the enterprise so they can make the right decision – not just when it’s crucial, but when time is a luxury.