Five smart steps to improve your manufacturing future
19 Jan 2022
Many companies have not reaped adequate outcomes from their IoT investments. FPT’s Nguyen Duc Kin offers vital pointers for manufacturers seeking to embark on a smarter future
If in the past, steam and electricity revolutionised the manufacturing industry, then today, it is data that is disrupting how manufacturers operate. In a factory, valuable data can be collected from embedded sensors and connected production equipment, such as conveyors, fastening tools or robots.
To fully exploit this critical asset, companies need to implement the right infrastructure, including connected devices, networks, protocols and storage. In addition, manufacturers need to unify data from disparate sources to create a single source of truth. This means they need software that can collect, process, analyse and store all data generated throughout the manufacturing process.
Since the implementation of smart manufacturing not only affects production lines but also other shop floor activities and top floor operations like sales, finance, HR, badly organised procedures might impede the adoption of new technologies, especially when it comes to automation. This could have a negative impact on the manufacturer’s entire performance. Digital connectivity also allows increased links with suppliers, customers and other production sites, forcing manufacturers to streamline their processes to avoid any accidents that may result from poor operation models.
A workforce with modern skillsets
No matter how smart factories can become, people are still the key to success. Some positions may no longer be necessary thanks to the adoption of robots, while other workers may be required to develop new capabilities to fully utilise advanced technologies. It is also likely that new roles will emerge. An under-skilled workforce, hence, is not something today’s manufacturers can afford. To ensure the successful collaboration between humans and machines, both managing and operational levels are required to be quick learners, more versatile, flexible and proactive so they can perform cross-functional roles. Not only do they need deep domain knowledge, technical know-how about handling equipment, data and automation are also essential.
Readiness for rapid technology changes
Manufacturing technologies advance every day. A few years ago, drones and autonomous vehicles were still novelties, but recently they have been adopted more widely across many sectors. The same goes for robotics and 3D printing. To remain competitive, organisations will need to keep up to date with and open to emerging technologies such as data analytics, high-performance computing, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, intuitive machinery and augmented reality.
More attention on cybersecurity
Smart manufacturing relies heavily on connectivity among tools and systems, which makes it much more vulnerable to the risk of unauthorised access, data leaks, espionage and even sabotage. Given the multitude of connection points, a cyber attack may cause a more significant and widespread impact. At the same time, it is more difficult to protect complex systems against growing cyber threats. Overcoming these new security challenges requires stricter measures, including proper investments in robust IT infrastructure and security skills.
Smart manufacturing opens up endless opportunities to maximise efficiency, conquer new markets and drive innovation. Careful consideration and preparation will allow manufacturers to clearly map out and accelerate their transformation journey.
Nguyen Duc Kinh is software senior vice president and executive director at FPT