Smart factory: What is smart manufacturing?

Like smart warehouses or smart farming the smart factory 4.0 is becoming increasingly important in modern day-to-day production. The innovative concept involves digitized production facilities that use networked devices, machines, and production systems.

The goal of such a plant is, among other things, to continuously collect and exchange data. Thanks to the amount of data available, decisions can be made and processes improved with the help of the right software solution. At the same time, this approach allows the use of artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data analytics and the industrial internet of things (IoT).

Smart Factories: Benefits and key principles

What is smart manufacturing? This question is best answered by looking at the benefits and principles of the smart factory. Among said benefits are:

  • The smart factory is more efficient than traditional manufacturing because all processes are optimally aligned.
  • Production costs are lower, due in part to reduced downtime and less waste.
  • Underutilized production capacity can be identified and eliminated. This, in turn, means that companies are making the best use of their resources.
  • Smart manufacturing tools use augmented reality (AR) to facilitate company work, improve planning and quality control. This also has a positive impact on product development and logistics.

The basis for a smart manufacturing process is the use of networked plants and devices. The data collected here can be used for evidence-based decision-making.

For smart factory applications to reach their full potential, processes such as machine learning are also of great importance. They provide a long-term competitive advantage by supporting every area of production. This is precisely why connectivity, data analytics and diagnostics are key principles of the smart factory.

The four levels of a smart factory

The definition of smart manufacturing always refers to the four levels of the smart factory. They are the basis for the targeted improvement process and are not only necessary for the smart factory itself. Rather, they are also the basis for an aimed smart warehousing.

  • Level 1: Ensure data availability

    The technologies of the smart digital factory require a comprehensive overview of the tasks at hand. Numerous data are necessary for this. Although collecting all relevant operational data does not yet make the factory smart, this step is absolutely necessary. At this stage, it is not about analyzing the production processes.

  • Level 2: Proactive data analysis

    The data collected at level 1 is used by smart factory solutions to perform comprehensive data analysis. The reason for this is that the operational data at this level is available in a structured and comprehensible form. Central data storage also makes it possible to visualize different statuses. However, companies should bear in mind that a proactive analysis is very costly.

  • Level 3: Active data

    In the next step, company data can be analyzed with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. No human interaction is required for this — instead, the smart factory industry 4.0 systems take care of it themselves. Greater automation than at level 2 also helps to predict problems and anomalies.

  • Level 4: Action-oriented data

    At this level of the smart connected factory, systems can independently find solutions to problems and take action. Human intervention is thus reduced to a minimum.

What is TeamViewer Frontline?

Frontline is a fully integrated augmented reality solution. It improves manual work processes across industries on the basis of the latest wearable computing technologies. Frontline is designed to consciously empower the human worker in an increasingly digitized working environment.

Smart factories in practice: How a factory becomes smart

For a simple factory to become a smart factory, first, a detailed analysis of the key areas is necessary. This provides information on which processes or equipment should be improved first. The full implementation of tools such as smart glasses or sensors, on the other hand, takes place over time. Finally, the introduction of new technologies requires extensive training of personnel.

Particularly important in the implementation of smart factory solutions is the collaboration between IT specialists and management. Both must implement the plan for digitization step by step.

Technologies used in the smart factory (also IoT)

A large amount of data makes it possible to analyze the production process of the smart connected factory in detail.

Moreover, the greater the volume of data, the easier it is to increase accuracy and detect errors.

With the help of this technology, the collected data can be stored and processed.

This is fundamentally cheaper than traditional storage and also increases flexibility in decision making.

Companies that want to increase their efficiency can use digital twins.

This is a way to simulate processes or physical objects and their performance. This can be used to infer the efficiency and profitability of individual approaches.

Installed on devices and machines, they collect numerous data during the manufacturing process.

They can thus be used for monitoring purposes, for example, to warn personnel of impending problems.

Smart manufacturing technology offers many modern approaches such as smart glasses.

Technologies such as AR can also be used via smartphones to make production even more effective. At the same time, such approaches help to complete numerous production tasks faster and better.

Tip: Here you can read more about the differences between augmented reality (AR) vs. virtual reality (VR).

Smart manufacturing tools and cyber security

Smart factory technology is based on computers and digital systems that require special cyber security. In particular, data protection and privacy are especially important. Therefore, security should be given a high priority when setting up the smart factory. This can be achieved, for example, by using tested software that implements basic and standardized security mechanisms.

TeamViewer Frontline: A great software solution for the smart factory

There are numerous software solutions for the smart factory — including TeamViewer’s fully integrated augmented reality solution Frontline. This software helps companies improve cross-industry and manual work processes. The basis for this is modern wearable computing technology. It ensures that people can increasingly interact with the digitized work environment and use the collected data.

The result: In the smart factory, inspection times can be shortened, changeover times reduced and rework avoided.