What should your smart factory look like?

The manufacturing industry is undergoing a digital revolution. Heightened demand, a greater need for productivity, not to mention the impact of Covid-19, has increased the necessity for Industry 4.0 and smarter working.

But what is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices. It enables manufacturers to improve productivity, analyse data and make real-time production decisions through the use of modern smart technology.

The different technologies used in a smart factory often depends on the requirements of the manufacturer, staff and its customers.

So, what smart technologies should you consider?

Data Support

A key challenge for manufacturers is operational efficiency. With disparate workloads, increased demand and multiple customers, suppliers and vendors to manage, how do you control the costs and drive efficiencies? Data technologies enable manufacturers to monitor, streamline and analyse the large quantity of information that they receive and make important business decisions. Businesses can look at areas where efficiency needs to improve, monitor customer requirements, or analyse areas in which employees can be more productive.

An example of this is Power BI on Azure. This analytics solution lets businesses visualise data and share insights, providing insights at scale, which allows manufacturers to develop the data-driven culture needed to thrive in a fast-paced, competitive environment.

High performing connectivity

A move towards remote working for office workers has changed how manufacturers and factories need to operate. Staff need access to applications and data from the factory, but now they are all spread in different locations. So how do you control the access?

A cloud-based IT infrastructure allows a high quantity of applications, data and resources to be securely hosted in a cloud-based platform. Employees can easily access server documents, including factory data and information, from any location via the cloud. It enables each employee whether they are in the office or working from home, to operate, function and communicate with each other easily, while helping to speed up time-to-resolution and productivity.

SD-WAN

However, a move towards remote working combined with increased demand has the potential to overwhelm a server if not managed correctly. When there is considerable network traffic, how do you prioritise applications without causing unwanted delays and downtime?

Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) helps manufacturers avoid downtime, by streamlining high data usage and stopping applications from overwhelming the network. SD-WAN provides an overlay to an existing network, giving the manufacturer complete control and visibility regardless of where the traffic originates.

Health and safety

Health and safety policies are always an important consideration for any manufacturer. Failure to comply with safety regulations can result in serious accidents, fines or even severe repercussions but how can manufacturers ensure their staff are adhering to regulations?

Cisco Meraki’s smart cameras not only provide high definition recording but utilises a powerful onboard processor to analyse video and provide valuable insights for the manufacturer. It detects people and vehicles using computer vision and increases accuracy over time through machine learning. All data is stored on a centralised cloud management platform, providing complete visibility in any location.

If you would like to find out more about how technology can enable your smart factory and support remote working, then download our manufacturing guide: Building a remote workforce within the manufacturing sector.
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