Smart manufacturing: building quality in a digital world

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iRobot, an advanced technology company, leverages cognitive manufacturing and edge computing within its intelligent robot factory. Based on a six-pronged approach, the robot manufacturer has built a smart system architecture that encompasses intelligent terminal, system management, edge computing node, cloud and cognitive engine, intelligent device unit, and a production line layer. 

By enabling efficient information interaction, multimodal data fusion, and automatic production, iRobot has significantly improved the chip assembly and production efficiency in its ‘smart factory’. 

The fourth industrial revolution – Industry 4.0 – is primarily being driven by the advancements in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The cognitive capabilities of AI combined with the real-time connectivity offered by IIoT are empowering the manufacturers to obtain end-to-end visibility, facilitate predictive maintenance, and minimize production wastage. As per a report by IoT Analytics, the market for Industrial Internet of Things is expected to surpass $12.4 Billion by 2024 at 40% Compound Annual Growth Rate. 

Data analytics is also gaining popularity and prominence in the manufacturing industry. As per a report, approximately 1TB of production data is generated everyday in an average factory, but only less than 1% is analyzed by the manufacturers for improving their production cycles. With factories now opening their gates to digital transformation, big data and analytics is expected to find greater role in enhancing process efficiency. 

The primary objective of creating a smart manufacturing cycle, other than efficiency, is to guarantee quality results by enabling the shift from reactive to predictive approach. Having an interconnected ecosystem makes it possible for manufacturers to get more work done, with lesser manual resources, in lesser time, at greater productivity. 

Looking to derive the benefits of higher flexibility, efficiency, and speed, a German luxury auto-manufacturer is digitalizing its entire value chain. It is trying to build a completely connected smart factory by bringing digitalization into every stage including design, production, sales, and service areas.  

Smart factories are dedicated to embedding and integrating quality into every aspect of manufacturing and production. The need for developing a customer-driven value chain, manufacturers are embracing digitalization to serve their digitally-inclined end users. This blog will explore the promises and benefits of smart manufacturing to which manufacturers are opening up their factory doors as well as their pockets. But first, let us understand the need due to which digitalization has become critical for the manufacturing sector. 

What is the need for smart solutions in factories anyway? 

  • Minimize rework and production defects: With smart solutions in place, deviation of pre-determined product specifications become impossible. When exact-match products are manufactured in each cycle, rework is not required. This will ultimately make the entire production cycle defect free. 
  • End-to-end visibility and real-time monitoring: In a smart factory, manufacturers can trace end-to-end processes at any time. They can monitor and analyze the production process and the final product specifications for accuracy and efficiency. The real-time monitoring allows manufacturers to identify and resolve bottlenecks in a prompt manner. 
  • Swift response to changing market trends: The market conditions are extremely volatile with unpredictable and sudden changes. The customer demands also fluctuate. With heaps of data and AI, manufacturing companies can bring things into perspective and plan their production schedule accordingly. Moreover, with reduced wastage and minimum rework, production cycles grow highly efficient with greater productivity. This enables manufacturers to react to the market changes quickly. 

Benefits of smart manufacturing 

The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) estimates that smart manufacturing solutions will lead to the following tangible benefits: 

  • 10% greater efficiency in overall operations 
  • 25% higher energy efficiency 
  • 25% reduction in consumer packaging 
  • 25% reduction in accidents 
  • 40% shorter cycle times 
  • 40% lesser water usage 

SMLC believes that these benefits can be realized if manufacturers use smart techniques for facilitating demand-driven and efficient use of resources. 

Higher efficiency and greater productivity are the umbrella benefits that a smart manufacturing process offer. These umbrella benefits further involve: 

  • Ability to develop a customer-focused manufacturing process 

The combination of data, cloud computing, AI, and IoT sensors together deliver valuable insights on what the customers want and when do they want it. This means, IoT sensors can pick up the behavior and feedback of end users. The obtained data can be put into analytics, which can offer actionable insights by aligning the obtained data with current market dynamics. The derived information can help manufacturers optimize, upscale or downscale, and schedule their production and supply chain processes. By keeping the customers at the center, smart manufacturing allows the companies to eliminate total wastage and achieve maximum production efficiency. 

  • Transition from reactive to predictive maintenance 

With legacy systems, if a machine breaks down, it can halt the entire production cycle. Precious time is lost in mid-production maintenance, upgradation, and breakdown resolution. The advanced AI solutions, in a smart factory, can obtain real-time data from the integrated IoT sensors in the machines on their status. If the AI identifies any decline in the performance, it can proactively alert the workers to address the issue before any serious breakdown if happens. Moreover, the AI can also get a picture of the machine and process it based on the available data to pin point the exact problem. This also saves valuable time and ensures that the production cycle keeps on rolling. 

  • Remote control and monitoring 

5G is still in a relatively nascent stage at present. But its introduction has led to several promising benefits that smart factories can accrue. With near zero-time transmission of collected, cleaned, and analyzed data, 5G is expected to speed up decision-making processes on the production floors. 5G is also bringing the possibility to virtualize the programmable logic controllers for machines to be controlled and monitored from remote locations. 

To Sum Up 

There is plethora of advancements being made in the sector of manufacturing technologies. The pace of these advancements is so swift that it is getting increasingly difficult for practitioners to keep up and upskill.  

Having a fully interconnected manufacturing process certainly has the ability to disrupt the legacy methodologies and bring greatest efficiency and productivity. The trick lies in the implementation and getting the right set of workforce. 

ACigniti, we have established a 4-pronged AI-led testing approach that facilitates smart asset creation, predictive monitoring, and swift incident response. Our intelligent test case management strategy leverages AI algorithms for test suite optimization, defect analytics, traceability, and log analytics. Having experience in testing largescale data warehousing and business intelligence applications, we provide comprehensive Big Data Testing services and solutions. Connect with us.