The advancement of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is leading to a significant and fundamental shift within the manufacturing sector. Whilst smart factories can operate with near-complete autonomy, the human element is now responsible for decision making and intervention.
With the principles of Industry 4.0, innovative automation technology and far-reaching high-speed networks, the manufacturing sector has everything it needs to undergo a critical and complete digital transformation, one that can help it cope with the demands and requirements of tomorrow’s businesses and technology. Smart factories are beginning to take centre stage in what could be the Golden Age of Manufacturing – a time where investments in technology and the desire to innovate combine to create some pretty incredible applications. Whilst automation lines still require human input, smart factories are designed to help reduce costs, improve quality, streamline operations and increase productivity across the board.
Placing human input within an oversight capacity can not only help to reduce labour costs but also the potential for error. Using an intricate network of connected machines, devices and applications, smart factories can support the complete supply chain, from logistics to distribution, from manufacturing to QA, from after-sales to administration.
As these connected elements input real time data, machine learning outputs actionable insights on everything from operational capacity to inventory levels. Big data can also be used for maintenance, ensuring that engineers are notified should a fault be detected or even predicted. This helps to reduce machine downtime and outages, leading to greater bandwidth for product customisation. Comparing a factory in the mid-90s to one operating today, it’s clear that technology is not only changing how we make things but also the roles we play within the factory environment.
Automation is more than just a competitive edge but also a way for products to be made better, in smarter ways and in larger numbers. A.I., machine learning and big data might not work for everyone yet, but the ever-changing digital frontier is paving the way for a far more diverse and globally competitive market.