In sci-fi movies we see the vision of the future: high-tech buildings, nano technologies, virtual reality integrated in the society on all levels. However, what would seem like an utopia on the movie screen is slowly but surely becoming our reality. Did you know, that more and more industrial plants every year undergo a makeover to become Factories of the Future? Billions of dollars are invested in order to make the old school production site into a futuristic facility managed by high technology.
Factories of the Past
In the past, we’ve been used to large centralized production factories operating from a single location. Those factories would be involved in monotonous manufacturing processes for decades with very little improvement or desire to change what’s already been working.
In the old days, raw materials and components had to be transported long distances to be delivered to the production plant. It was common to be relying on transportation of the materials as well as the produced goods delivered to the end consumers. In the present days, both the raw material market and consumers market have become global. The world of trade has been taken over online marketplaces. On many occasions, business deals worth hundreds of thousands dollars are closed online.
Manufacturing in the past years has involved labor intensive and sometimes even dangerous tasks. Nowadays, most of such procedures can be performed by robots increasing the productivity, flexibility and quality of the end product.
Factory of the Future Concept
Convergence of information and operational technologies brings ahead the Factory of the Future concept. The automation of production has become the world’s biggest trend. Safran Nacelles, the integrator of aircraft engine nacelle systems, has invested €50 mil to meet the Factory of the Future standards. In 2015, virtual reality program was launched at Safran Nacelles production site initiating a significant leap in productivity. The virtual reality tool has soon become the crucial element of the manufacturing process, widely used by technicians and operators.
Tesla plant based in Fremont, California is yet another example of a revolutionary factory makeover. Upgraded assembly line has the incredible capacity to produce 100,000 vehicles annually. Over 200 robots are involved in the production process along the side of hundreds of Tesla’s employees. Tesla factory is a fantastic example of how technology supported by human resources evolves into a powerful and efficient conglomerate.
The Internet of Things
Innovative technologies like virtual reality, 3D printing, robotics and the Internet of Things are spreading widely across various industrial sectors. To put it in words in a simple way, The Internet of Things represents the ability to connect any (any!) device to the Internet by simply operating a switch. In the nearest future, devices like washing machines, fridges, coffee makers, lamps will all have the feature to instantly connect to the global network. Can you imagine your coffee maker working on the same principle as your smartphone? The prediction made by Gartner analytics says, by the year 2020 more than 26 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. Such a giant network of connections will not only connect devices, it will help to establish connections between humans, humans and things, things and things.
What is the reason behind the global aspiration to unite and interconnect all the devices? Imagine your coffee maker being connected to your alarm clock and start brewing fresh coffee 5 minutes after you alarm goes off. Or the printer at your office sending a notification to the office manager that it’s out of paper. On a factory of the future scale, thousands of interconnected devices will enable a smooth and fast production process in any industry field.
Factory of the Future Highlights
Those factories who have already (at least partially) implemented the principles of Smart manufacturing and the Internet of Things report a significant increase in productivity. According to the Hufftington Post report, the following results have been documented:
- 82% factories stated increased efficiency of production process
- 45% factories reported customer satisfaction gains
- 49% factories reported fewer product defects
Automated production processes are now supported by a communication on the highest level. Fast networks, flexible software and equipment with multi-touch sensors enables to increase reliability and minimize the errors along production cycle. Factory of the Future concept … the key characteristics:
- Integrated product configuration tools help to meet the constantly rising demand of the consumers’ market
- Cloud data storage solutions have made storage of unlimited volumes of data possible
- 3D printing – creating three-dimensional objects under computer supervision – has changed the world of manufacturing forever
- Robots-humans cooperation has become the strongest trend and helped to rapidly improve productivity
- The Internet of Things has a potential life-changing impact for the human race. Global economic value of IoT is predicted to be in the range of trillions of dollars.