We are still far from a complete lights-out factory. But we are also far away from the last few decades’ noisy, smoky, accident-prone, and chaotic factories.
Slowly but steadily, some factories around us have transformed. Now, you can observe the presence of IoT in machine equipment, sensors throughout the factory perimeter, and even robots working alongside humans as if it were commonplace. In fact, predictive maintenance, drone-driven warehouses, and data streams placed beside assembly lines are now characteristic features of smart manufacturing. It is no surprise to see these advancements in many advanced factories today that have wisely embraced the transformation of manufacturing. Real-time data, sensors, and robots are becoming the new standard in factories, aiming to bridge the gap between volatile demand markets and dynamic production environments.
According to Forrester’s predictions, the manufacturing sector’s leaders have successfully implemented pandemic-era innovations. As a result, the gap between these companies and their less successful counterparts has widened. In 2023, manufacturers are doubling down on existing technology initiatives to respond, adapt, and prepare themselves for the upcoming challenges.
Digital factories – how much and why?
According to estimates from Research and Markets, the smart manufacturing market is projected to reach approximately $300 million by 2030, up from $186 million in 2022. The factory of the future is being shaped by segments such as Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), Supervisory Controller and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Enterprise Resource and Planning (ERP), Distributed Control System (DCS), Human Machine Interface (HMI), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Robotics, and Machine Vision. If we focus on India, we can see that the IoT market in manufacturing reached INR 422.57 billion in FY 2022 and is expected to reach INR 774.90 billion by FY 2027 (Source: Market Research). Thanks to the triggers from COVID-19, digital manufacturing has gained prominence in India. We have witnessed an increasing adoption of robots, shop floor automation, the use of sensors and data analytics, and manufacturing transformation through the rapid adoption of IoT in many Indian factories.
In Deloitte’s 2023 manufacturing industry outlook, it can be observed that manufacturers that have taken risks and invested in digital maturity have attained better resilience than others during the pandemic. Manufacturers are turning towards digitization to gain answers for challenges like a tight labor market, workforce churn due to supply chain limitations, and reduced operational efficiency and margins.
Deloitte has pointed out that 72 percent of enterprises believe the persistent shortage of critical materials and the ongoing supply chain disruptions present the most significant uncertainty for the industry, even in the coming year. Manufacturers are confronting these risks with increased utilization of digital technology as well as with time-tested approaches – like building local capacity and moving from just-in-time sourcing to create redundancy in the supply chain. One in five manufacturers is already experimenting with underlying solutions or actively developing a metaverse platform for their products and services.
The Digital Factory Transformation Survey, 2022 by PwC, has also noted $1.1 trillion in digital factory investments each year worldwide.
It has been seen that 64 percent are still at an early stage of digital transformation. In comparison, an increase of 67 percent was observed in the number of companies that mark resilience and flexibility as critical drivers of their investments. Only high investments lead to high returns, and 10 percent of the global survey group of manufacturers have completed their digital transformation program or are in the final phase.
Gains of investing in connected factories
Those who are doing manufacturing transformation right- the Digital Champions are not only reducing operating costs via digital automation- but also creating double-digit returns through cost efficiencies and better flexibility. Overall, digital factories show remarkable changes like:
· Drop in maintenance and repair costs because of predictive analytics and IIoT
· Never-before speed and inventory efficiencies due to smart dashboards
· Fewer accidents and errors due to smart quality control and digital twins
· Speedier T2M due to digital twins, robotics, and Industry 4.0 tools
· Human augmentation and productivity leaps due to cobots and assistive tools
At the same time, data streams – in the form of continuous, real-time, and swift transfer of data- have made it possible for enterprises to reap the gains of data lakes and hot-from-the-oven analytics in manufacturing. These data streams help companies not just manage the sheer volume and complexity of data sprawled all over factories, warehouses, machines, and supply chains- but they also empower companies to use them for smart decisions. If we look at a 2022 ‘State of Data in Motion’ report, we can find that 97 percent of organizations around the world are tapping into real-time data streams. As many as 80 percent have felt that real-time data streams are critical to shaping responsive business processes. With powerful data streams, manufacturers can unlock a new advantage through:
- Fast transfer of data from various sources
- Well-streamlined data – delivered at the right action-point
- The ability to capture critical events and enablement of crucial decisions with insights
- The lens of real-time data with context-driven knowledge
- Enablement of models like software-defined manufacturing, IIoT, Closed-loop manufacturing, and Industry 4.0
- Smart shop-floor workload management
- Intelligent anomaly detection through correlation of consistent data across many machines
- Proactive capacity planning and shift-scheduling
- Empowerment of Just-in-Time manufacturing and QA models like Poka-Yoke, Gemba, and Six Sigma
To achieve these disruptive leaps, you would need the expertise of a seasoned and sharp digital manufacturing transformation partner. Your manufacturing environment can be turned digital, smart, and tech-savvy with the tools, team, and guidance of a specialist that has been executing smart manufacturing, data-driven manufacturing, and enabling connected factories for many MNC manufacturers.
As the world changes its gears towards digital factories, you can, too, start to step forward in that direction- confidently and smartly. In fact – you should.