Companies in places as far away from the U.S. as India have begun to build smart factories that will soon be competing with American manufacturers. Those who are late to the game will end up facing major competition problems because smart factories are much more sophisticated than many of the manufacturing plants currently extant in the U.S. In order to bring about a truly automated factory, companies will need to be prepared with both mobile enterprise software and automated data collection.
Workers on the factory floor will scan raw materials as they come off the truck, and devices as simple as barcode readers will scan information about a machine as it performs. By doing this, smart factories and the managers who run them will be able to make major decisions about product mix and other issues in order to solve many of the problems faced today. Managers will be able manage better on the fly because their mobile devices will automatically be updated with the latest information both about the factories being run and the supply chain that works together with the manufacturing plant.
Turning Factories into Profit Centers
Business Standard wrote that smart factories have the power to bring a major return on investment in those who begin to convert their current shops into technologically enhanced ones. A recent report on this subject was written by Frost and Sullivan, a research and consulting firm. The company looked at new factories in India and found that automated data collection was a major part of what makes smart factories function.
"Smart factory refers to the smart environment which is closely and invisibly connected with sensors, actuators, displays and computer elements, all connected by a network," the report said, according to Business Standard. "It is a single functioning mechanism, seamlessly coordinating every aspect of manufacturing. Smart factories are characterized by their adaptability and efficiency, in addition to their ability to interact with customers and business partners."
Companies that still rely upon pen and paper won't be able to keep track of their machines in the same way that someone in a smart factory can. For example, many businesses are taking advantage of very powerful tools that can predict when a machine in a factory will break. They will then step in and replace parts before they are damaged, thereby continuing to produce output at the same pace. In another example of smart factory technology, a business might experience an unexpected breakdown. When there is technology in place that networks the machinery of a factory together, software can look for a way to keep work going even when something has broken, thereby continuing to make finished goods at a slower pace until the machine can be replaced.
The paper stressed in particular the greater efficiency of smart factories when it comes both to automated equipment operations as well as to placing workers where they will be most useful.
Managing Automated Data Collection
Data capture is a serious business, and many companies are overwhelmed by its complexity, according to FoodProcessing.com.au, an Australian news site for the food processing industry. The importance of it, however, is undeniable, and the businesses with the smartest factories will end up outcompeting the companies that still rely on human counters to figure out the contents of trucks and estimate the useful life of a machine. In the future, more and more of the factory will be automated. The best way to begin investing in this is by buying automated data capture software that can collect the necessary information on the fly. Another useful tool is mobile enterprise software, which is a suite of applications that sends the information in the factory directly into a mobile device, so managers can have this info while they're on the go.