The evolution of the production environment into a smart factory requires management to successfully govern the convergence between the worlds of IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology), managing innovation both in terms of components and in the choice of platforms for the control and automation of the processes. The main objective of this convergence is to make the data and its analysis of it the pillar of the strategy of the whole company, making production and the warehouse more efficient and making the supply chain transparent at every stage.
To manage this, it is essential to rely on advanced technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning, using devices that support them.
Smart device: 5 pieces of advice for making the right choice
In the role as partner of many manufacturing companies, SECO can suggest solutions and development projects aimed at recovering operational efficiency, always respecting existing resources, but at the same time helping to design new business scenarios by investing in innovation and technology.
Drawing on the experience accrued over time, here are 5 essential rules for making the best choice in the field of smart devices:
- Maximum performance in terms of connectivity. The choice must fall on smart devices that ensure high interoperability, both with the most modern machines and less recent ones. Retrofitting is a valid solution for bringing old generation machinery to the network immediately, an opportunity that must be seized to support companies in the process of transition to Industry 4.0. Introducing the analysis of production cycle data, remote control, updating and predictive maintenance using a dedicated algorithm, allows an acceleration of this modernization process and new value-added services can be introduced for the SMEs too.
- Reliability, quality and sustainability. It is necessary to rely on producers who ensure materials that are long-lasting and potentially resistant to the most critical environmental conditions. To these features the possibility of updating must also be added, a factor that extends the life cycle of the smart devices adopted. Relying on products not validated for these environments can lead to malfunctions and machine downtime, and more generally instability of the production lines. Another aspect to consider is energy consumption, one of the most important factors in the manufacturing sector. Correct management of the available bandwidth and reduced consumption during the data extraction, processing and sending phase allows for an improved ROI and sustainability.
- Long-time availability and new services. Reduce the risk of technological lock-in and at the same time be able to support services with high added value, effectively enabling servitization. SECO's reliability can also be seen in the choice of open-source, modular, easily integrated and scalable solutions, which allows its customers to avoid the risk of lock-in, a reason for which the data-driven path and the development of a company not only slows down but can also have strong impacts from an economic point of view.
- Operational safety and certification. The smart factory considerably widens the perimeter of its borders, thus multiplying the points of attack. For this reason, it is necessary to adopt solutions that can be easily updated that guarantee high safety standards, compliant with the strictest certification processes in the industrial sector. Any critical conditions can have repercussions on the entire supply chain, including distribution and assistance.
- Innovation and ROI calculation. How to understand if the introduction of new technology has a positive effect on the calculation of ROI? First, let's briefly look at which advantages the investments in IoT, the adoption of an AI platform and the automation of processes bring:
- Improvement in company production both in terms of quantity and quality
- Introduction of predictive maintenance policies with reduction of downtime
- Optimization of warehouse and supply costs
- Containment of waste both in terms of resources as well as hours/persons worked
- Reduction of the time to market
- The efficiency of energy consumption
- Increase in the level of sustainability of the company
To calculate the ROI, however, it is necessary to carry out proper data collection over a prolonged period. AI models need to be continually nourished and refined to be able to express their incredible potential.
In summary: innovation does not only concern the adoption of new and better technology, but must also involve the methodologies for calculating profitability indicators, to make decisions that are increasingly aware and supported by the data. To do this, time is needed, time that the company must take to re-think, thanks to increasingly reliable and realistic information, its business and distribution models.