What Is Smart Factory?

Significant changes are taking place in industrial production right now. Technological advances in automation, computer power, and communications have made smart manufacturing and smart factories our reality.

Smart Factories are the Future

Smart factories are based on the use of specialized software, robotics, and modern multifunctional machines, which are controlled by artificial intelligence. Implementation of such systems helps to maximize the technical efficiency of the enterprise through planning and continuous monitoring of operations. With their help, you can optimize the entire production, create a unified data exchange system between machines in real-time. 

The functionality of such systems is not limited to this: they can independently make adjustments to the technological process and quickly respond to changes in it, adapt to the needs of users, have the ability to self-manage, and transfer information to the service personnel about their condition, etc. It is also worth noting that smart production is environmentally sustainable, uses recycling (waste processing), and has a minimum impact on the environment. 

Let’s discover what technologies are used in smart manufacturing today.

Artificial Intelligence

Manufacturing modern products in smart factories are impossible without appropriate digital design systems. One of them is generative design technology based on artificial intelligence, which allows you to automatically design products and change their properties. The engineer only has to set the initial conditions – material, load, manufacturing constraints. Using this data, the system itself works through many options, returning answers in the form of ready-made solutions.

Today, this technology is mainly in demand in those industries where there is a need to reduce the weight of products, for example, in the military industry, aerospace industry, shipbuilding, medicine, railway transport, nuclear and automotive industries.

Robotics

The word “robot” was first used in 1920 – this is how the Czech writer called an artificially created person in his play, intended for use in heavy and dangerous industries. Today, robots are increasingly used for welding or as an alternative to a CNC machine for milling or drilling and, in addition, more and more “communicate” with the world around them.

For example, Ash, a robot at the Autodesk Pier 9 technology center, interacts directly with people through a VR system. To immerse himself in his environment, VR glasses are used, and Ash, using computer vision, can see others, process information about the processes taking place around, and learn to perform assigned tasks.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is a key technology for successful communication. One of the most recent examples of its use is the Autodesk Factory of the Future (AMF) in Birmingham. All the technologies that are needed to organize smart production are presented there. AMF has a single tool that uses the Industrial Internet of Things to collect and integrate data from different parts of production and equipment. All this happens in the cloud. The team can identify ineffective processes and develop solutions that increase productivity.

The almost limitless possibilities of cloud services and the availability of relatively inexpensive sensors allow you to collect data from products, analyzing their work. Using this information, the manufacturer can improve the product or optimize one or another of its characteristics.

This approach was used by the startup Hack Rod, which produces ultralight cars on lightweight futuristic frames. The researchers took an existing model of the car, equipped it with sensors as much as possible, conducted a series of test drives in various modes, and used the data obtained from the sensors to optimize the performance of the car.

Smart Factory Solutions: How Does It Work?

Let’s take a look at how smart technology can be applied in a factory that makes custom-made custom products. A customer places an order for several hundred products over the Internet. The data is fed into the order processing program (ERP system). The data is automatically sent to the workshop, where it is used to prepare machines and, if necessary, to order materials from suppliers.

A product design is created in a CAD system or automatically, using generative design technologies. Product drawings are automatically converted into machine codes for machine tools. Intelligent hardware ensures that everything needed for assembly is sent to the right place at the right time. For this, the electronic identifiers of materials and parts are used. When it all arrives on the shop floor, the robots, or robots, and operators (cobots) together, begin the assembly process. In some cases, additive processes are used (like 3D printing) – most often for small batches on individual requests.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors embedded in equipment constantly monitor and record data from production processes and equipment operation. Fully automatic or semi-automatic artificial intelligence systems change operating parameters or processes, optimizing them to achieve the required speed and quality level. If a customer changes requirements or wants to add something during production, this can be done quickly, without rework.

The quality of the finished product is automatically checked before shipment using sensors (measuring instruments) and artificial intelligence. Tracking devices constantly inform the client about the status of the order.

Final Word

To thrive in today’s fast-paced and fluid business environment, you need to build a culture of innovation, cost-effectiveness, superior productivity, and high-quality customer service. Following these key principles means transformation, otherwise, the company will always be left behind and lose competitiveness.

Smart Factory is our vision for the future. FPT software team accompanies customers step by step on the path to building a smart enterprise. Contact us and we will help you decide what smart solutions you need and how to implement them!