As the world of traditional manufacturing fuses with digital manufacturing, organizations are tapping into a level of technical orchestration never attainable before. Symphonies of systems facilitate real-time interactions between machines, assets, systems and things. This is the Smart factory; the factory of the future. It’s conducted by the Industrial "Internet of Things," permitting processes to govern themselves, with intelligent machines and devices that take corrective action to avoid unscheduled breakdowns. Downtime becomes a thing of the past, waste and defects eliminated, each machine moves in perfect time. Every handheld digital device in the factory reports the status of every fixed device, giving personnel access to real-time, actionable information. Wearable technology can track employee location in case of emergency. A global team of tech-savvy players will ensure that specific parts are ordered and replenished based on real time analysis of big data. The list goes on and on.
While “The Internet of Things” (IoT) has become everyday jargon, how does it relate to Smart Factories? And how is the Industrial Internet differentiated? It’s simple – the first industrial revolution was powered by steam. Today’s Industrial Revolution is being powered by the Industrial IoT. What are these “things?” They are a jam-packed assembly of sensors and controllers, devices and embedded components, all talking to one another – interconnected, machine-to-machine, in real time – the entire factory moving and producing in harmony. This is the Industrial Internet, Industry 4.0, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). When all of these things come together, the benefits and outcomes are extraordinary.
Composing the Smart Factory Symphony
The word symphony, which literally means ‘sounding together’, originated in the Baroque period to denote a piece of music played together by a combination of instruments. Normally, a symphony consists of four movements. In relation to the evolution of the Smart Factory via Industrial Internet, these movements lead to the evolution of a Smart factory.
First Movement: Becoming a good Listener
According to Andrew Waycott, COO/CTO of Factora, smart manufacturing removes the focus from what the equipment is DOING, and turns the focus up on what the equipment is SAYING. Steps to becoming a good listener:
- Collect a comprehensive set of data from your plant floor machinery.
- Analyze the data and use it to identify parts failure, monitor materials quality and inventory levels, keep abreast of end-of life or performance issues, and empower time-saving, money-generating opportunities.
- Turn insights into actions.
Technologies like Big Data and Cloud Computing provide useful insight to factory management. Of course the data has to be stored and processed with advanced tools to generate meaningful information. Flexible, scalable, clouds of cost-effective storage catch the outpouring of data. Then sophisticated software tools are applied to analyze the results, and empower decision-makers to turn all of this into transformational outcomes.
“The idea is to track every person, every part, every work in progress and every tool on the factory floor,” explains Dr. Richard Soley, Executive Director of the IIC. “With analysis of this data, you can make the factory more efficient, make better use of resources, make the floor safer, provide better JIT delivery, and many, many more benefits.” Click to watch Dr. Soley’s entire CeBIT interview.
Second Movement: Retrofitting --Ode to Joy!
What if you have a traditional factory with old machinery? Start retrofitting. In previous decades, it was only the manufacturing industry giants who had the means and the motive to purchase, connected sensors and controllers and analyze the results. Today, sensor technology costs have decreased to the point where operations of every size have the means to revamp, upgrade, retrofit, and prepare for digital automation. The process to becoming a Smart Factory is a journey. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (musical setting for Schiller’s Ode to Joy) was not written in a day. Arguably, Schubert never finished his 9th, yet it remains among his most brilliant.
Third Movement: Recognizing the Benefits
Companies like Bosch, National Instruments, Cisco, TechMahindra and many other IIC Members are already deploying an IIoT Smart Factory strategy and realizing these benefits:
- Increased visibility and insight into the production floor helps address issues before they occur: quality control is improved, equipment wear and tear can be tracked and intercepted, repairs and other schedules are optimized.
- Intelligent Supply Chain Management: sensors such as RFID tags will allow inventory tracking and monitoring, and process automation.
- Decreased Total Cost of Ownership: think lower, and more environmentally friendly overhead. Smart grid installation and technology advances correct power consumption, IoT supported HVAC, and load balancing. In turn this might inspire natural resource conservation, and effective prediction of future energy requirements.
- Streamlined human resources. This doesn’t necessarily mean job loss, but more importantly job optimization. Continuous data means continuous analysis, risk assessment, and process coordination. It also means fewer field service calls, optimized remote monitoring and diagnostics, and proactive equipment maintenance and repairs.
- Increased Revenue: All combined, Smart Factory optimizations are leading to better results, new business opportunities, cost savings and increased revenues.
Fourth Movement: The Power of Collaboration – IIC and Platform Industrie 4.0
As the world of manufacturing gets smarter, it is more important than ever before to collaborate and leverage the vision, expertise, pilot projects, testbeds, and architectures available worldwide. In the fall of 2015, representatives of Platform Industrie 4.0 and the Industrial Internet Consortium met in Zurich, Switzerland to explore the potential alignment of their two architecture efforts - respectively, the Reference Architecture Model for Industrie 4.0 (RAMI4.0) and the Industrial Internet Reference Architecture (IIRA).
Platform Industrie 4.0 is a German agency comprised of government, business and trade union officials which promotes the computerization of manufacturing and supports its implementation in Germany, thus maintaining the country’s position as a leading production location. Industry 4.0 has recently been expanded to focus on systems security, work and education training, and legal issues.
The meeting was a success, with a common recognition of the complementary nature of the two models, an initial draft mapping showing the direct relationships between elements of the models, and a clear roadmap to ensure future interoperability. Additional possible topics included collaboration in the areas of IIC Testbeds and I4.0 Test Facility Infrastructures, as well as standardization, architectures & business outcomes in the Industrial Internet.
Help Shape Things to Come
Just as every masterwork of composers past, the “Smart factory” is an elaborate, calculated composition that has been years in the making, and will take years to fabricate, practice and become popular. Even a genius like Mozart had to work for at least ten years before he produced something that became popular.
If your organization has not yet established a cadence, “ALLEGRO!” it time to get involved in the Industrial Internet Consortium. Visit http://www.iiconsortium.org/ for more information.
 Travis Hessman. "The Dawn of the Smart Factory." IndustryWeek.com. Industry Week, 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. Find similar article by Travis Hessman here: http://www.industryweek.com/author/travis-hessman.
 Andrew Waycott. "Where Does Smart Manufacturing Fit on the Road to World-Class Manufacturing?" Information Week. Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer, Factora, 9 Mar. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. "Smart manufacturing is about the equipment telling us what will work better, not about us turning dials to tell the equipment what to do."
 Andrew Waycott. "Where Does Smart Manufacturing Fit on the Road to World-Class Manufacturing?" Information Week. Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer, Factor, 9 Mar. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. " Only two decades ago, it was a handful of bold early adopters who were willing to invest hundreds of thousands to connect the sensors and controllers and analyze the results. Most, understandably, didn’t. Today, retrofitting sensors to older machinery is surprisingly doable. And because WCM is a journey rather than an event, it’s possible to be successful adding one sensor at a time.”