Author: Norbert Hank President Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence
Manufacturers are in continual pursuit of process optimization, meaning that factories need to be more flexible and more responsive. To be competitive, manufacturers must offer increasingly customized, bespoke products – everybody wants something unique. However, productivity cannot be sacrificed to achieve this: costs cannot be allowed to increase; and there is always pressure to reduce production lead times.
A Smart Factory should produce faster, at lower cost and with greater flexibility. This is achievable with intelligent systems that monitor every step of the process, feeding back information in a control loop to optimize the process and increase productivity. But to truly understand the potential of the Smart Factory, we need to take a step away from what we think of as a ‘factory’. A Smart Factory is not limited to the walls of a single building or location. It could span multiple locations and may even include the facilities of multiple suppliers working together, increasing the importance of connectivity and communication between production sites.
Many companies today operate distributed manufacturing models either within their own business, through a supplier network, or by a combination of both. But we tend to treat all the locations within such models as discrete silos. The challenges of managing change within this type of organisation can quickly become one of the biggest obstacles to productivity.
Imagine if every stage of the process, wherever it takes place, shared a common digital platform to connect data from every location. Such connectivity enables feedback loops that embed continuous improvement into the product life-cycle. This platform creates a global entity that spans geographic locations and empowers the workforce within to adapt quickly to the changing needs of the market. It is an agile entity that easily accommodates demand, whether it’s for more frequent design changes, smaller batch sizes or individual customization.
Increasingly intelligent systems and connected devices and processes provide a bridge between information systems and the physical world. Quality is integrated throughout the process and information automation provides operators with deep insight on demand. In this data-driven ecosystem of human and machines, manufacturers can go to market faster and be more competitive. At Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, we believe this is the potential of the Smart Factory.
Speed, efficiency, cost and quality – the Smart Factory balances all variables to achieve productivity. The real key to manufacturing success is not hard work, but smart work. Through information automation, Hexagon’s manufacturing solutions back up decisions and actions with quality data. Whether the process is human motivated or machine automated, quality drives productivity.
For more information: www.hexagonmi.com