What Is a Smart Factory? Features and Technologies
More and more industries are joining the fourth industrial revolution or industry 4.0, introducing disruptive technologies to manufacturing processes, which give rise to the Smart Factory, also known as the factory of the future.
Industrial digital transformation is the process through which physical and digital elements merge to improve productivity. In short, it is the application to industry of the IoT or Internet of Things model. This way, all physical elements are connected to each other, generating and sharing information. This data (Big Data) analysis identifies patterns and interdependencies, flags up inefficiencies and even predicts future events.
The significance of what Industry 4.0 represents would be that it allows a more flexible and modular production through flexible production equipment and automation technologies.
IDEA Ingeniería is noted for being at the forefront of industry 4.0 and, of course, for being the engineering company of the future in the present, using the most advanced technologies and bringing the latest innovations to the sectors in which our projects are implemented.
Smart Factory: What is it?
As its name suggests, it is a highly connected and digitalised smart factory. Based on the Internet of Things, it is capable of storing and analysing large amounts of data that help improve processes, minimising production times and costs.
However, the most outstanding feature of this type of factories is that they manage to operate without too much human intervention, learning and adapting to changes in real time.
This fact enables them to be much more flexible than former factories, as they are able to operate autonomously without any problems, thanks to the huge volume of information they process. This way, manufactured products are adapted to current needs, generating a much more versatile production.
- Connection of physical and digital elements
- Resource optimisation
- Stored data reliability
- Bidirectional data flow between elements
- Speed and flexibility in case of unforeseen events
What technologies does it contain?
A smart factory requires a series of technologies to guarantee that all its processes generate an impact on the plant’s production, improving times and making them much more efficient.
- IoT, the Internet of Things: total connectivity between machines. They facilitate the exchange of information between systems and products, capture data, coordinate systems and deploy remote services.
- Data analysis (Big Data):collects and analyses all the information generated by interconnected elements in order to identify patterns and interdependencies, flags up inefficiencies and even prevents future events.
- Cloud Computing: stores all generated information.
- Cybersecurity: technologies that ensure security, privacy and data protection. Reliable and secure communications, together with sophisticated identity and machine access control.
- 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing): facilitates the production of both three-dimensional objects from virtual models and spare parts on site by reducing safety stocks.
- Virtual and augmented reality: enables workers to obtain real-time feedback from the industry’s physical elements in order to improve decision-making and increase safety.
- Robots: provide autonomy, flexibility and cooperation.
The following are real examples of the use of these technologies, depending on the activity to be developed:
- Cognitive robots and autonomous robots to perform repetitive tasks that require a high level of accuracy.
- Digital Twinto control and plan operations and increase efficiency.
- Augmented reality to assist operators in product inventory tasks.
- Autonomous robots to perform warehouse operations.
- Sensors to track where a product is located and its movements in real time.
- Robots for the automation of quality tests (artificial vision systems, metal detection, etc. can be used, depending on the sector).
- Augmented reality to assist personnel in equipment maintenance and repair.
- Sensors in equipment used for facilities’ preventive maintenance.
Environment and safety:
- Sensors to locate any hazardous equipment near personnel.
- Sensors to measure ambient light, dirt or humidity (very useful in industrial and sanitary environments).