Guideposts for transforming your facility
You ought to by now know the importance of smart factories to manufacturing. They increase efficiency, product quality, safety, and sustainability while knocking down costs. The smartest among them can practically run themselves. In some way shape or form, smart factories make use of a few or all these technologies: artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, drones, the Internet of Things, robotic automation, and 3D printing. The best smart factories and solutions leverage these and a few secrets of their own. Their examples offer a lot of insight for smart factory transformation.
At its Blaichach, Germany, plant 60,000 sensors work in tandem to keep production teams up to date on which machines will soon need service. This predictive maintenance allows them to schedule fixes rather than wait for a breakdown, cutting downtime by 25%. The Nexeed industrial application system allows them to monitor machines from a desktop or laptop with a digital twin. “Nexeed is the brains of our production facility. It makes processes transparent and tells our machinery what to do and when to do it,” said Christoph Kunz, section head for production scheduling at the plant.
Schneider’s Lexington, Ky., has earned advanced lighthouse and end-to-end lighthouse designations from the World Economic Forum. An example of how the best smart factories connect legacy systems to the industrial IoT, the 60-plus-year-old brownfield site has used Schneider’s EcoStruxure IT software to lower energy use by 26%, water use by 20%, and carbon dioxide emissions by 78% in conjunction with renewable energy credits. “Being part of the global Lighthouse network allows us to share our knowledge and collaborate with industry peers to bring about greater sustainability and resilience for organizations so that we can recover and thrive amidst periods of adversity,” Schneider Electric North America CEO Annette Clayton said.
The best smart factories also keep workers safe. The simplest way to do that is to automate the most dangerous tasks so humans aren’t taking the biggest risks in the first place. ABB’s pioneering Smart Melt Shop uses advanced algorithms to optimize ladle and crane movements so that molten metal can be transferred safely and efficiently. The coordinated movements decrease heat loss because liquid metal goes from furnace to caster the instant it’s ready to pour, and because they’re automated, workers don’t need to be directly involved in the transfer. “The digitalization of core processes will drive new levels of productivity, safety and sustainability outcomes for the metals sector,” Tarun Mather, ABB global product manager and digital lead for metal, said.
It’s one thing to collect data. It’s another thing to know what to do with it. Rockwell’s smart solutions help manufacturers realize the true value of their data. They provide layer integration for manufacturing execution systems so teams can visualize their risk and efficiency to maximize productivity on individual machines and scale that throughout a large factory. “Being intentional about your data strategy – when you need real time data, how you will collect it and how you will use it – provides you a metric for action and a way to gain value from the insights,” Rockwell says.
With digital twins and simulation software, the best smart factories can see how well systems will operate before they start. Daifuku Webb uses them on programmable logic controllers for its materials handling, including an airport baggage handling project. “Ordinarily, our people spend many months in the field,” senior controls engineer Greg Swisher said. “And we were able to condense that time down to about a three-week period from the time our engineers hit the field to the time the customer took acceptance.”
Smart Factory @ Wichita
Powered entirely by renewable energy, the Deloitte-sponsored facility at Wichita State University showcases solutions from 20 renowned providers and innovators, such as AWS, Siemens, and SAP. They help students and visiting manufacturers envision how to integrate features of the best smart factories into their business operations. Real-world demonstrations and hands-on workshops show how to transform legacy systems into flexible, responsive components of a modern manufacturing plant. “Through the strength of this collaborative approach, we are helping organizations accelerate innovation and make Industry 4.0 a reality,” Deloitte Consulting LLP smart factory leader Stephen Laaper said.