Smart factories are getting smarter





The combination of traditional manufacturing with computers and automation -- known as the fourth industrial revolution -- has transformed the way factories operate.

These "smart factories" make the most of connectivity, data and analytics to enable unprecedented levels of automation and optimisation, explains Graeme Wright in an article for Manufacturing Global.


But the revolution doesn't end here: smart factories are becoming even smarter, Wright believes.

Artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, augmented reality (AR) and "connected everything" are bringing about an environment where self-correction, automatic streamlining and the elimination of expensive prototype development are possible.

"In fact, it's not just possible; it's happening already," Wright says.


For instance, self-learning AI bots can monitor the entire production line and operation, gathering data from various sensors, machines and devices to teach themselves what the parameters of 'normal' operations are. Eventually, the bot is able to advise on how to make the production process more efficient or can even take action to accomplish this without human intervention.

The bot can also pick up where and when something needs maintenance, helping to reduce the risk of equipment failure. If necessary, the bot can interact with a machine to automatically halt a production line and then issue a ticket for repair, create an inventory list for components and assign technicians for the repair. The bot can even notify customers or logistics partners of the delay in production.


AR, meanwhile, can save manufacturers years in research and development by allowing designers to virtually 'build' a prototype and test various materials, looks and feels without physically making or using a single component.

"Ultimately, smarter factories mean that they will be able to deliver what the market needs, faster, with more accuracy and less risk," Wright concludes.


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