Industry 4.0, or smart manufacturing, has taken several industries by storm. 54% of firms have partnered with OEMs to develop IIoT platforms while several companies have reserved 25% of their capital spending for automation.
While Industry 3.0 revolved around automated manufacturing, Industry 4.0 added another layer – smart manufacturing (SM). Simply put, it uses emerging technologies to connect machines and computers for gathering operational data through sensors. And involves experts assessing this data to enhance process efficiency and prevent downtime.
While SM comprises several technologies, automation is its fundamental component. Robots, embedded with sensors, have transformed industries by enhancing profitability, efficiency, quality, and safety while reducing labor costs.
Automation has its roots in the use of steam engines, levers, and pulleys in the 1800s. Then came PLCs, CNC machines, and robots that automated complex processes with high precision. Currently, it has gone a step further and combined robotics with IIoT, ML/AI, cloud computing, and other technologies to create fully autonomous systems. The aim is to optimize the supply chain, from planning to delivery, through data analytics and real-time monitoring.
Importance of Automation in Smart Manufacturing
Sensor-based automation has always been crucial to modern manufacturing processes. It has been a blessing for both the producers and consumers.
Thanks to emerging technologies such as smart sensing, 5G, IIoT, and AI, it has become possible to achieve greater productivity, precision, and efficiency along with optimized use of natural resources.
With the consumer goods market set to reach a whopping US $3.61 tn by 2028, industrial automation is not a luxury anymore; it has become a necessity for companies to stay competitive.
The importance of automation in smart manufacturing can be reflected in the following benefits:
• Enhanced Productivity and Efficiency: Production acceleration, optimized resource use, and lower costs per unit ensure business growth.
• Improved Quality: Elimination of human errors leads to consistent, high-quality products.
• Reduced Labor Costs: Reduction in manual labor dependence results in cost savings.
• Enhanced Safety: Robots handle risky tasks and work in hazardous places, enhancing human safety.
• Better Customer Satisfaction: Greater accuracy and quality lead to satisfied customers.
Related Technologies of Smart Manufacturing
While robotics with intelligent sensing is central to SM, it needs other advanced technologies to create fully automated and interconnected systems. Its collaboration with emerging technologies such as IIoT, ML/AI, and cloud computing streamlines the entire manufacturing ecosystem.
Some of the primary technologies associated with SM include:
Since the first industrial robots in the 50s, with advances in sensor and software technologies, robots have gone from being secondary helpers to primary workers in several industries. For instance, a Netherlands-based Philips razor plant has a robot-to-human ratio of 14:1.
With cutting-edge sensors, robots can now perform several tasks repetitively and with greater accuracy than humans. They can handle hazardous tasks such as welding, packaging, assembly, palletizing, and quality inspection efficiently and safely.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
The IIoT, a network of interconnected machinery, sensors, and the cloud, facilitates data sharing. It helps industrial facilities manage equipment, communicate through the cloud, and analyze data to improve efficiency and decision-making.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
With sensors gathering data from equipment and production lines, AI can analyze it in real time. It identifies trends and patterns, allowing manufacturers to assess process performance. It can also detect product distortions, equipment defects, or process disparities early on and conduct quality control.
Moreover, AI can help manufacturers:
• Perform predictive maintenance
• Streamline production and supply chain
• Implement effective safety protocols
Challenges Associated With Automation
As with all new technologies, integrating automation with emerging technologies has its challenges:
One of the most daunting challenges is the prohibitive initial cost of setting up automation technologies, especially for small-to-medium-sized organizations. To address this issue, these firms can implement automation on a smaller scale and expand once they begin realizing RoIs. Besides, investing in automation eventually leads to increased productivity and profitability.
As the stack of technologies increases, there arises an acute need for experts to design, implement, and maintain related hardware and software. It can be solved by spending on employee training and hiring specialists to fill the knowledge gap.
Another challenge of connecting robots with machines and computers over a cloud to form an IIoT platform is the ever-looming security threats. With manufacturing being second on top hacker targets, separating robot networks, access management, encryption, and password protection can be implemented to mitigate the risks.
Rule the World of Smart Manufacturing with Hokuyo
Hokuyo-USA provides a wide range of smart sensors for you to successfully build a smart manufacturing unit.
Our expert team of engineers is committed to getting you through the various challenges associated with automation. With our wide range of products and unparalleled support, we ensure meeting the needs of our customers from various sectors worldwide.
Contact us to discover more about how we can help you jump-start your automation journey.