Why Not All Smart Factories Are Created Equal

Dec 6, 2022 8:15:00 AM / by ThinkIQ

More and more, manufacturers are investing in Industry 4.0 Smart Manufacturing technologies to build modernized smart factories.

When implemented correctly, these technologies create a connected environment that enables better decision making, and the optimization of efficiency and productivity.

But not all smart factories are created equal. Read on to find out why this is the case, and what a true smart factory really looks like.

A Smart Factory That Delivers On Industry 4.0 Smart Manufacturing

A smart factory is one that has been equipped to collect data about the equipment, materials, and people moving through it, with the aim of optimizing operations for ends like greater efficiency, quality, safety, and yield.

Smart factories enable this collection of data often through IIoT sensors on devices and machines that can monitor essential manufacturing variables and processes.

But this data collection is only the beginning. In its 2021 report, The 3-Step Process of Contextualizing IoT and Manufacturing Data to Enable Smart Factories,” Gartner identifies major challenges for smart factories that result in “incomplete and inaccurate insights.” One such challenge is the difficulty manufacturing decision makers have understanding the data they do have “because of the poor structure or process of how the data is visualized.”

Gartner highlights that in order for a smart factory to be successful, IoT data must not only be collected, but also contextualized, and visualized.

A key component of the smart factory is connectivity, to be sure, but connectivity in a smart factory does not equate to Industry 4.0 Smart Manufacturing. Data collected through IIoT connectivity, without meaning, is relegated to data lakes where it can have no real value. Context is essential — without it, a smart factory fails to deliver on the full promise of Industry 4.0.

Moreover, although many manufacturers are already leveraging some smart factory benefits, including using realtime data in areas such as scheduling and maintenance, a true smart factory is one that not only operates inside one facility, but also connects beyond the shop floor, integrating in-plant insights with end-to-end supply chain operations and the broader enterprise network. In this way, the true smart factory enables manufacturers to create a more interconnected, agile enterprise that can enhance relationships with partners, suppliers, and customers, and adapt more effectively to an evolving manufacturing landscape.

The development of a smart factory can be assessed at the following levels:

  1. Data Capture: The factory isn’t overly “smart” at this level — data is collected using existing sensors, manual data captures are digitized, but the data is still in different data silos, hasn’t been analyzed, and isn’t very useable.
  2. Visualization & Integration: At this level, data is structured in a more understandable way; it is available centrally, with standardized metrics, visualization, and context. This enables the beginnings of data analysis that can mitigate risk, bringing problems to the forefront.
  3. Material-Centric Insight: Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) comes into play at this level, analyzing and correlating data, and creating insight with less human intervention. Advanced visualizations become possible — including of the supply chain. Root issues can be uncovered, anomalies identified, potential failures predicted.
  4. Transformational Intelligence & Continuous Improvement: This level builds on the previous ones to implement continuous improvement at the enterprise level. Deep cause and effect insights alert manufacturers to problems much earlier in the process, and multiple opportunities for improvement are surfaced. An instant, intelligent view of operations is available, from raw materials to end consumer.
  5. Industry 4.0 Smart Manufacturing: At this level, the smart factory has reached its true potential with fully autonomous Smart Manufacturing. This includes optimization inside the factory and across the supply chain, with end-to-end supply chain traceability, and fully transparent, realtime, contextualized data. The results are increased plant and product safety, early problem spotting, reduced waste and costs, and the most efficient, agile manufacturing line in history.

The real power of the smart factory is in its capacity to evolve with the shifting needs of the enterprise — to become more responsive, more predictive, more proactive within an interconnected network, empowering manufacturers to make decisions and adapt faster and better in a dynamic landscape than ever before. By investing in this factory of the future, manufacturers will ensure they stay ahead of the curve and ahead of their competitors, forging a fundamentally transformed, intelligent enterprise.

The Path To The Smart Factory Of The Future

The smart factory of the future is one that gives manufacturers the full picture, enabling true collaboration between people and machines, and driving real business benefits. Realizing this vision becomes far easier with the right partner.

ThinkIQ is the leader in Transformational Intelligence for Manufacturers, contextualizing data — both in-plant and across your supply chain — to improve yield, safety, quality, and compliance. Our 5 stage path to Smart Manufacturing leads to safer products and improved key metrics.

ThinkIQ delivers unprecedented continuous visibility, material traceability and insights into your critical production blind spots with no need to change your current process, retrain your staff, or upgrade/retrofit your equipment.

 Our patented fact-based granular and data-centric contextualized view of material flows integrates into existing IoT infrastructures, filling in blind spots with advanced AI/ML-based visioning.

With ThinkIQ, it’s easier than you think to reach Smart Manufacturing status. We contextualize and report analytics that surface root-level problems that you could never spot before. While previous technologies like ERP, MES, and MOM were passive, ThinkIQs Transformational Intelligence delivers Industry 4.0 actionable insights that transform manufacturing.

Create a smart factory that truly delivers on the promises of Industry 4.0 — Get in touch with a ThinkIQ expert today to get started on your Smart Manufacturing transformation with our Transformational Intelligence platform. You can also download our new eBook,Using Computer Vision to Fill Manufacturing and Warehousing Blind Spots with Actionable Data” to learn how to gain greater visibility into your manufacturing process.


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Tags: SMART Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, smart factory


Written by ThinkIQ

Think IQ

The Industry 4.0 Data Revolution

Proven to improve manufacturing yield, safety, quality, and compliance by making sense of your data.

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