Manufacturing technology is changing rapidly, and interest in incorporating tech such as smart IIoT, sensors, and other connected machines continues to grow among industrial facilities. Smart industrial equipment can boost efficiency, productivity, safety and more — yet implementing these devices can be intimidating and difficult, preventing manufacturers from realizing these benefits.
The following Q&A is designed to provide insight into the current state of manufacturing technology, future developments on the horizon, and the ways organizations can start taking advantage of smart manufacturing today.
Manufacturing technology, explained
Q: Is IIoT an option for facilities with older equipment?
A: While smart technology is often presented from a “greenfield” perspective with a new, connected facility, that scenario is not the reality for any legacy manufacturer. Fortunately, aftermarket equipment is the standard when incorporating smart tech, with sensors and communication devices able to be added to nearly any piece of machinery with relative ease. If you are hunting for a new system, tool or apparatus, connectivity is likely to be a feature out of the box. If not, there are plenty of other options to begin your smart IIoT journey.
Q: Do most industrial manufacturers take full advantage of the benefits of manufacturing technology?
A: The answer is a qualified “no.” Yes, most manufacturers — whether they have implemented connected technology or not — are aware of some of its benefits. However, many organizations do not realize the full potential of a smart facility. Predictive maintenance is often the biggest selling point for smart devices, and power consumption and efficiency are typically primary interests for the organization user. Nonetheless, there are numerous other applications as well: forecasting the business impact of shutdowns, implementing process control, planning and distributing personnel and resources, and more. The vast majority of companies are only beginning to unlock the potential of smart manufacturing.
Q: What other investments can complement smart technology in the manufacturing industry?
A: Primarily, investments in people. Contrary to the stereotype that manufacturing technology will eliminate human beings from the equation, it is critical to hire and support employees who can implement, understand and work effectively in a smart facility. Any venture involving technological upgrades should include significant investments in personnel training and development, as well as the potential acquisition of new staff who are able to interpret and act upon the vast amounts of data that come from smart IIoT. As with technology, the time, money and energy spent on people can provide an immense return over time.
Q: What role do partnerships play in manufacturing technology?
A: In today’s manufacturing landscape — where facilities must remain laser-focused on maintaining quality and efficiency in day-to-day operations — partnerships play a key role in implementing and managing smart manufacturing. By working with professionals in the field, you should be able to get up and running even more quickly, not to mention gain access to dedicated expertise to provide performance and efficiency benefits right away.
Q: Is there still a place for instinct and experience in manufacturing and maintenance?
A: Like any technology before it, smart equipment is only as good as the people and the knowledge that implement, manage and use it. “Industry 4.0” can be thought of as a method of gaining even more knowledge with which people can make informed, data-driven decisions. The irreplaceable benefits of this knowledge, experience and gut feelings are only made better by access to this technology.
Q: How can manufacturers overcome misunderstandings about manufacturing technology?
A: Through knowledge and partnerships. Knowledge — learning the ins and outs of manufacturing technology usage, implementation and applications — sheds light on how smart equipment can be incorporated. Additionally, partnerships make it exponentially easier to gain this knowledge and reap the full benefits of IIoT.
Manufacturing technology lies at the heart of ATS’ comprehensive maintenance solution, including Reliability 360® remote monitoring and analytics, sensor technology and more. To discuss your maintenance and technology goals, contact ATS today.