Smart Manufacturing is a term with many definitions that all have one theme in common:
using new technologies and capabilities to gain competitive advantage.
The Ideal and The Reality
At Ectobox, we say that a company is a "Smart Manufacturing" company when they have fully integrated solutions which empower them to be highly flexible and responsive to changing conditions. A Smart Manufacturer produces a quality product, uses finely-tuned processes, monitors their supply chain and coordinates it with production, and overall, maintains systems that work well together. Theoretically, the best Smart Manufacturers can even fix their own problems automatically.
But what do we typically see the most of? Engineers huddled around a problem trying to solve it. Inventory pilling up in various work areas or cells. Inventory “starvation” in other areas. People and machines not working when they should be. These situations are so common that we see them at almost every manufacturing company we visit. The good news is that these issues are all fixable. The bad news is that manufacturers who don't make the effort to eliminate these issues and increase their efficiencies are the ones who will struggle to stay competitive.
Why it Pays to Pursue Smart Manufacturing
Besides the appeal of new technology, why does Smart Manufacturing really matter to the average company? It matters because the specific technologies and capabilities under its umbrella can make companies more efficient, enable cost reductions, and potentially, drive new revenue. Some of the capabilities Smart Manufacturing offers are:
Better insight into what’s going on at your plant floor
New and better products and services to meet your customers' needs
Faster development and launch of new products
Reduced costs of production
More revenue per employee and per machine
New business models (such selling your products as a service)
Smart Manufacturing is the Future
Manufacturers all over the country are under pressure to be more competitive and overcome new challenges. In reality, factories of the future probably won’t look much different than they do now. The biggest difference is that they will be working much more efficiently. The machines and people and supply chain of the future will be more flexible, better-coordinated, and self-healing. The technology is already here, so companies can start getting “Smart” right away.
In our next blog post we will talk about the specific technologies within Smart Manufacturing.