The promise of Industry 4.0 and IIoT is one of digital technology delivering massive profits for manufacturers. Tech sites lavish praise on the latest connected and synchronised devices running 24/7 in smart factories across the world. Yet, for many business owners, even the term smart factory or digital factory can bring confusion.
In a recent blog, Omron Automation poses the question of how and when is the right time to go smart. Does it need to be a state-of- the-art greenfield site or can ordinary factories upscale to become smart? In truth, any traditional factory can start on the smart factory journey, by applying modularity to the installation.
It is important to grasp that smart digital factories are not a trend, but a step in an inevitable shift in production. So, the right time to go smart is as soon as you are ready to take the first step.
But not all tasks, processes, services and procedures can benefit immediately from a smart approach of digitalisation. For many producers, their production combines equipment from multiple manufacturers; some isolated and others connected.
Defining realistic goals
Firstly, what works and what doesn’t; what can work better or faster and at higher quality? These are the first steps in defining where digitalisation might help: understanding what needs solving before trying to solve it. Secondly, consider automation of manual tasks in the production line, either fully or with the help of a collaborative robot.
How does a digital factory operational technology (OT) become information technology (IT)? Any system or process that can produce data has a potential for integration into the IT system. Collecting and analysing performance data provides the factory management with an oversight of what working well, and what needs improving.
For most SMEs, partnering is an essential tool in developing smart manufacturing, and Omron Automation has decades of experience in the field and in every production industry. Along with its partners and integrators, Omron can support any owner at every step of the journey. It all depends on when you are ready to take the first step to become a smarter digital factory.