The manufacturing sector is slowly recovering from the ravaging impacts of the pandemic and the slowed-down, post-pandemic economic growth. The sector is also facing a skilled labor shortage amid dynamic shifts in consumer behavior and supply chain challenges. Companies are under constant pressure to optimize their operations, aiming to minimize operational costs and drive sustainability.
2023 can be a turning point for manufacturers — provided they can capitalize on digital technology and infuse advanced manufacturing technology into routine workflows. Companies should delve deeper into modern tech solutions such as IoT, cloud technology, high-speed internet connectivity (e.g. 5G networks), big data, and the Smart factory concept.
Optimizing manufacturing operations is vital for maximizing revenue, improving production quality, fostering sustainability, and extending the lives of production assets. How can manufacturing facilities optimize operations in 2023?
Use big data for production and maintenance
Manufacturing in 2023 and beyond will be data-driven. Manufacturers will require access to multiple data streams to streamline their asset management, optimize supply chains, improve yield, and drive sustainable manufacturing — while matching real-time market demands.
Facilities should standardize and centralize data management using manufacturing execution systems (MES), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS).
Using big data implies that companies must shift from traditional data management systems to more advanced ones. Big data analytics simplify data management and provide crucial insight for continuous processes and for quality improvements. Big data can revolutionize maintenance management, quality control, supply chain management, and manufacturing risk evaluation.
A prerequisite for shifting to big data analytics is stellar real-time data management and utilization. This, in turn, calls for investments in technology such as cloud-based manufacturing systems and high-speed networks.
Automate routine workflows
Manufacturing involves several collaborative workflows and systems that must work together to achieve productivity goals. Manufacturers have relied on manual workflow and workforce management for a long time. Manual process and personnel control is prone to errors that affect the completeness and quality of the manufacturing processes.
Manufacturers should strive to maximize productivity in 2023 by automating their workflows. Facilities can automate maintenance management, employee timesheets, productivity tracking, production planning, production equipment, and consumer market research. The automation systems can communicate amongst themselves, and they can be easily available on mobile devices.
Manufacturers can take their automation efforts a step further by investing in autonomous robot systems for material handling and the execution of complex activities. Using autonomous production systems might even help with the skilled labor shortage the sector is facing.
The capabilities of automation systems depend on how fast they can collect and process data. Cloud technology, combined with high-speed connectivity, is one of the ways to optimize data management for streamlined manufacturing operations.
Implement Smart Factory concepts
The future of manufacturing lies in the Smart Factory — an integrated manufacturing facility with interconnected systems. The transition to Industry 4.0 leverages the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) and wireless networks to enhance equipment autonomy, process safety, and real-time production tracking.
Implementing Smart Factory concepts enhances operational visibility. Factory managers can monitor the performance of every piece of production equipment, track quality issues, identify the predominant types of asset failures, and streamline product development.
Sensor data is beneficial for developing predictive maintenance models and algorithms, which can optimize asset uptime and lower maintenance-related costs. Modern industrial sensors can detect the slightest changes in processes and alert operators, enabling timely rectification.
The Smart Factory also uses embedded intelligence to help sensors monitor processes and predict future performance. Predictive analytics help manufacturers plan ahead and streamline supply chains, optimize maintenance supplies, maintenance schedules, and implement remote process control. IoT sensors can also monitor energy consumption patterns, helping companies develop energy-saving measures — which leads to more sustainable operations.
Explore advanced manufacturing techniques
Profit margins from manufacturing can get slim due to the high cost of raw materials and energy needed to convert raw materials into finished products. Traditional manufacturing methods are associated with large process wastes and longer turnaround times.
In 2023, companies must rethink their manufacturing strategies, and explore the possibilities of advanced manufacturing techniques.
Manufacturers can use additive manufacturing techniques — such as 3D printing — to speed up production while also reducing production waste and costs. Additive manufacturing uses fewer materials and reduces tooling requirements.
Advanced manufacturing systems incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) at the design stage. Manufacturers can simulate processes and evaluate the reliability of the selected manufacturing materials. AI systems can autonomously identify production defects, and sort the finished products based on their quality.
Manufacturers should also look into the viability of using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for training production and maintenance personnel. Employees can then visualize how advanced production systems work, which helps them build the confidence required to operate, troubleshoot, and repair the systems.
Manufacturers must step up their game in 2023 to remain competitive and deliver value to their customers. They should audit existing manufacturing practices, equipment, and technologies to identify the underlying challenges in their facilities.
Manufacturers can use information from the audits to select the digital tech solutions required to overcome the predominant production and supply chain challenges. Finally, they should implement new technology in phases, for better monitoring and higher success probabilities.
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