The future of manufacturing lies with smart factories. Models of these are already under construction in Korea. They essentially use the technology behind the Internet of Things such that all the machines communicate with each other. Similar to a smart grid, smart factories isolate problems and find creative ways to circumvent these issues. For example, a smart factory will detect if a machine is running slowly or broken, and then reallocate jobs to another machine efficiently. It will do these things without any assistance from a person. All the work is done by machines.
In order to build this kind of factory, the pen-and-paper model of data capture has to transition to automated data collection software, so that machines will do the work and plug the numbers directly into the central computer that runs the factory. Organizations that don't want to fall behind will have to start catching up by getting a handle on solutions such as barcode scanning software.
Korea Creates Smart Factories
Korea Joongang Daily recently reported the opening of a model factory in the Cheongju industrial complex in North Chuncheong. It is almost entirely staffed by robots. This is to such an extent that humans are actually a rare site on the factory floor. Cart robots move goods from one machine to another, and they produce items starting from their raw state through to completeness within one three-story building. It is currently the largest smart factory in existence, and produces cables for various electrical devices.
"Because each facility automatically operates and controls its operation, production is fast and precise," said Kim Joong-Young, a manager at the LSIS Cheongju factory, according to Korea Joongang Daily. "About 20,000 completed units of 38 different electricity control-related products are produced at this smart factory every day without delays. Our production here is automated up to 95 percent."
According to Business Korea, the number of smart factories in the country is approximately 10,000. They are all manufacturing a variety of products, many of which are difficult to manufacture quickly when done by human hands.
Making the Transition
In order for the U.S. to begin making smart factories, it will need to start with the basic systems that count inventory and register how many objects a machine can produce in an hour. These data capture tools are the foundation upon which the entire edifice of smart factories is built.