It is difficult to imagine a world where businesses, and especially, the manufacturing industry, would need to get smarter. Chaplin has long demonstrated, in his iconic Modern Times film, that machines have come to replace manual labour. What would be the need for new smart technology when most of the hard work is already left to automated equipment?
The answer to that question lies in our understanding of smart tech, and more importantly, its environmental and economic benefits. Indeed, households have already developed a smart hub, which uses the Internet of Things and hyper-connectivity of all appliances and systems to create a safe and manageable environment for all. At home, smart tech serves multiple purposes, not only saving costs but also maintaining high independence levels among the population with limited mobility and handicapping diseases and conditions. But automation, even though it can be part of your smart household, remains confined to isolated tasks.
It’s only when smart tech is integrated into the whole organisation of cities that it has the most significant impact on the population. Knowledge, data, and processes are interconnected to support collective growth and shared goals. Can smart tech do the same for the manufacturing sector?
Reminder: What are smart cities?
The increase of smart cities in Europe is on the rise since up to 80% of Europeans live in towns and cities. Indeed, at its core, a smart city doesn’t only make the most of IoT integration, but it also implements smart tech in the purpose of developing functional and sustainable services for its inhabitants. In the long term, there is no doubt that the push to increase smart cities is changing the future landscape of Europe. But, it can also dramatically help to reduce our global carbon footprint. Indeed, making information available via digital technologies enables infrastructure to innovate and optimise all the time. As a result, reducing urban pollution becomes a manageable goal.
What would the future of smart manufacture look like?
Ideally, smart manufacturing should imitate the core principles of smart cities. In other words, IoT and innovative technology need to come together to create a sustainable manufacturing process. In essence, manufacturing equipment and process would be able to capture and transfer data smoothly and safely, not only to meet its production objectives but also to develop a comprehensive green structure. In theory, smart manufacturing appears both feasible and accessible. In practice, however, there are several obstacles to clear out.
Unique requirements and smart technology
The theory of an intelligent structure that expands to a large industrial scale relies on standardised requirements and objectives. For smart cities, for instance, while every town might be different, the day-to-day needs of its population remain the same. As such, the introduction of automated data processes and solutions appears a logical approach. Manufacturers don’t share a common goal or process. In fact, it’s something that expert B2B suppliers, such as RGP balls, manufacturer of precision balls since 1973, know better than anybody else. Suppliers have had to develop variations of their offerings to meet the unique needs of every single one of their B2B clients. When every piece of equipment needs to be individually set with specific precision balls, measurements, and pressure factors, it’s hard to imagine how a standardised smart algorithm solution could bring manufacturers together.
Can we nevertheless aspire to smart manufacturing?
Admittedly, while there is no room for a single standardised approach in the manufacturing industry, analysts and environmentalists agree that some innovative strategies could make a difference in the long term. Indeed, developing monitoring and data capturing technology for industrial applications could help manufacturers to work towards a shared sustainable goal. There’s a need for precise and reliable energy consumption monitoring at equipment and production line’s levels, to gain an understanding of energy use. With the services of professional energy auditors, there’s no excuse for manufacturers to fail to implement smart meters throughout their structures. Additionally, automated production rules can then be reviewed individually to serve an environmental purpose. As such, the individual use of smart tech can support the creation of smart manufacturing.
It’s fair to say that individual settings and technology can only go so far. Innovation in the industrial sector has become a problem. While some businesses are dedicated to investing in R&D, factory workers continue to lack the skills needed to drive innovation. Indeed, skills such as data analysis and tech-savvy education can not only encourage workers to identify areas of improvement but also boost the innovation process towards smart manufacturing. Unfortunately, manufacturers exist in a world of isolated innovation where the smart invention of one company may take several years to reach the global market and even longer to drive investments.