What’s Inside a Smart Factory?
As leading spring manufacturers in the ever-evolving engineering industry, we are always looking for ways to improve our processes to provide the latest and greatest service for our customers. Industry changes occur rather regularly, especially with the ongoing digitisation, so it may seem overwhelming to those entering the field and joining a smart factory if you don’t know what to expect.
So, we’re taking a look behind the curtain of manufacturing and delving into some of the things you may find inside a smart factory. We’ll be looking into some of the high-tech hardware as well as the innovative software that has been developed over the years to help you get a better indication of the machinery and equipment you will be dealing with in this environment.
What Are Smart Factories?
A smart factory is a cyber-physical work environment where machinery and equipment are linked through an interconnected network of computers. Smart factories are indeed smart and have the best technology available and the highest advancements in AI, robotics, and incredibly intelligent hardware and software to enable their devices to talk to each other seamlessly. This technology allows humans to take a step back and let their machinery take over by transforming and streamlining processes to create a more efficient and productive workplace.
Smart factories are just one small part of Industry 4.0, which we have seen taking over the manufacturing and engineering sectors.
Industry 4.0 is the latest industrial revolution, in which digital transformations are plenty. The goal set by the industry was to improve digital manufacturing, such as:
- Automation increases
- Interconnecting digital and physical processes
- Increasing productivity and efficiency
- An increase in the use of smart devices
- And, of course, an increase in smart factories
These are just a few examples of the goals of the industry. Still, many processes have been implemented to ensure these objectives are met, and we see many improvements throughout the manufacturing and engineering sectors.
Here at European Springs, we produce a long list of custom springs and bespoke pressings, and these digital transformations help us to improve the systems that allow us to create these specific items for our customers.
So, What’s Inside a Smart Factory?
With so many digital improvements taking place all the time, it can be difficult to keep up with equipment changes and software updates. So, to help you better understand what to expect inside a smart factory and learn more about the technology included as part of Industry 4.0, we have compiled a list of some of the tech and equipment the industry uses today.
Robotics helped tackle the Covid-19 outbreak, but even since then, they have come a long way. Now, robotics is standard machinery in smart factories, helping to make up the extensive range of equipment under the roof of these working establishments.
These robots are programmed with the latest software, enabling human-robot collaboration to take place before they are set up to automate processes once completed by human workers.
3D printers are used in smart factories to create high-quality prototypes of items that these factories produce. For example, as custom spring manufacturers, we could use this machinery to print a prototype of a bespoke spring for our clients. This allows us to showcase what we could produce for them, meaning we could alter parts, change sizes, and make other amendments freely without wasting materials.
CNC machinery, also known as computer numerical control machinery, can be found in almost all smart factories today. This software can be used to programme machines and hardware in smart factories, allowing efficient production without the need for constant human interaction.
5G eliminates the need for wired devices, meaning smart factories can remove almost all of their wiring and depend solely on a 5G network to run their systems. This comes with both advantages and drawbacks, the latter being connectivity issues, a halted production line if the network fails, and increased cybersecurity threats. However, the benefits often outweigh these risks; with impressive speeds and increased flexibility, more factory owners are implementing 5G into their businesses than ever before.
We are seeing a lot of AI in the news right now, with this technology making its mark on the art industry, but it has been a staple in smart factories within the manufacturing sector for some time now. One example of AI used in smart factories is replicating objects that a factory may produce for customers. This allows for initial visual analysis tests to be conducted digitally, which saves money, time, and materials that would have been lost should they have conducted physical tests first.
Big data is used in many aspects of manufacturing found within a smart factory. It is used to review large amounts of historical loads or alter major orders, both of which we could use here at European Springs. For example, if a customer approached us and asked to repeat an order they made with us several years ago, we could use big data to replicate their exact specifications and provide them with the same items. Additionally, suppose a customer wanted to make changes to a major order. In that case, big data could help us alter this quickly and seamlessly without affecting the rest of the production.
Here at European Springs, we are always excited by new technological advancements and industry improvements that allow us to streamline our services and offer our customers the very best. To keep up to date with the latest industry news, please check our blog for new posts.