SMART manufacturing is surely the target of anyone wanting to succeed in the ‘Industry 4.0’ sphere right now. But how do you know which SMART manufacturing processes and systems are going to be right for you?
“The first place to start is with data” says Mags Dalton, PM Group’s Head of SMART Manufacturing.
“There is huge ambition out there right now for SMART factories. This is especially so in the pharma industry and for what we call ‘lighthouse’ facilities, which really show the way to Industry 4.0. Where it all starts is by asking the right questions about what you want to achieve. What is the problem you want to solve? Is it a manufacturing process issue, or is it something further up the corporate hierarchy?”
“It’s very tempting to jump straight in and start asking about, for example, a digital twin of your entire facility,” says Mags. “But then you look at the budget for doing that and it’s significant. It’s important to identify where the specific issues are that you want SMART manufacturing to solve. Once you identify the data that already exists around that problem, you can start making clear decisions around cost and performance.”
Often, the data needed to carefully analyse a SMART manufacturing demand already exists, but it might be incomplete, or it might not be of the right quality. “If it’s a new facility, you might have to spend time harvesting the data you need” says Mags. “But if we’re talking about a major multi-national, data can often be leveraged from other sites. It’s worth taking the time at this point on the data itself and on getting the right people working on it.”
SMART real-time manufacturing data allows you to adjust and alter your manufacturing schedule to make it run as smoothly as possible. The likes of predictive maintenance — which works out when a technical failure is most likely to occur — means that machinery downtime can be minimised.
SMART manufacturing technologies can enable a facility or an area to be operated as ‘lights out’ thus removing personnel who can be a source of contamination and enable the process to run 24/7 unencumbered by holidays or breaks, if required.
“There’s going to be a bigger requirement for project information managers, data analysts, problem solvers and people who are involved in managing this kind of technology,” says Mags.
“It’s more of a shift in how and where people work in these facilities.” It’s an important message to communicate down the chain of training and education within SMART-facing industries — future employment will revolve more and more around data.
It’s not just big manufacturing tasks and big data, either. SMART manufacturing is about solving the small problems too. These problems can seem insignificant but can end up being blockers to both speed and quality. One of PM Group’s clients recently found that a control room in their facility included three separate human-machine interface screens, all of which needed password entry which was both slow and frustrating for the operators. Solutions include either biometric or swipe-card access instead, with the possibility of a single HMI screen that ties the information and functions of the other three together. It doesn’t sound like much, but bringing SMART manufacturing down from the macro to this micro level is transformative. The control room staff can do their work more easily, with greater safety, and aren’t being needlessly frustrated by the systems with which they work.
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