Manufacturing Day 2022: Factory of the Future Transformation is Happening Now
Nancy Sarpolis - October 04, 2022
Manufacturing is having a moment, as old stereotypes of gritty factories with antiquated machinery are giving way to the new reality of high-tech automation, smart production systems, and dynamic, integrated supply chains. In fact, changing people’s perceptions about manufacturing is the purpose behind October’s Manufacturing Day (October 7). It’s an opportunity for companies to open their doors and provide a first-hand look at modern production facilities to inspire the next generation of skilled workers.
What visitors see may surprise them: Industry 4.0 technologies that are quickly transforming manufacturing facilities into the “factories of the future” right before their eyes. And, while companies are at differing points on their digital transformation journeys, the unmistakable signs of change and progress are there.
Decision-making by data
Manufacturing has long been known for generating a plethora of data, from line speeds and run rates to quality and production metrics, to name just a few. But data has never been more important to the quest for improving productivity than it is today. It’s not just about knowing how many parts are produced during a shift or whether the temperature of an industrial cooling system is optimal. Plant leadership in modern manufacturing facilities are harnessing data in new ways and are using advanced analytics improve business performance and gain competitive advantages over rivals.
Using real-time data from equipment, sensors and other sources is helping organizations gain a deeper understanding of the impact of every component in the manufacturing process on the overall production plan. Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) solutions, for example, provide production planners with a clear view of the status of all production lines and components at any given time, for an unprecedented real-time overview of work content, machines, processing times, staff and parts requirements, and resource utilization. These insights allow for better decision-making and process flows can therefore be drastically improved – minimizing idle times and reducing costs.
Changes on the shop floor
The result is a transformation in the way work gets done on the shop floor. For example, being able to access the right information takes the guesswork out of determining the optimal time to perform equipment maintenance. Digital tools that bring together performance data from individual machines can help production managers identify trends that could lead to equipment failures—and give them the time they need to mitigate the impact before a breakdown occurs.
Likewise, digitization allows plant leadership to identify those machines with higher levels of rejects to get a more accurate picture of the facility’s first-time quality rates. The ability to quickly access necessary data can lead to early detection of errors and ultimately improve quality.
With greater visibility into real-time data, maintenance managers have the insights they need for better decision-making and shorter downtime.
Insight into the entire supply chain
But manufacturers today aren’t just using the data they have within the four walls of the plant. They’re looking across the supply chain—from sales and procurement to production and distribution—to improve efficiency and productivity. Advanced planning and scheduling (APS) solutions can help companies gain a comprehensive overview of the entire value chain and ensure that all departments within the supply chain have the latest information and can operate accordingly. For example, APS solutions can alert the production team to new orders as they come in through the sales team. In a smart manufacturing process, the software system then mediates real-time data between sales and production. Through planning and sequencing, manufacturers will know how many materials they need, which equipment should be used, and the most optimal times to produce specific products.
Advanced planning solutions are enabling manufacturers to use their resources—materials, people or machines—more efficiently than ever before.
Forecasting for what’s ahead
The market volatility in the wake of the pandemic has made it more important than ever for supply chains to become more agile. Organizations are turning to technologies that give them the ability to model a variety of scenarios to determine the potential impact on sales, production and transportation planning. An unexpected spike in product demand, for example, can be modeled in the scenario planning tool to determine the best way to optimize the plant’s capacity and meet customer commitments with the most cost-effective delivery options available. Additionally, advanced planning capabilities also help manufacturers keep up with fluctuating demand, ensuring that they are not stuck with excess supply if demand drops.
Thanks to digital tools and Industry 4.0 technologies, manufacturers are shedding their old-fashioned image. The factory of the future is arriving now—with its high-tech solutions for better planning, fewer surprises and smoother production schedules.
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