Smart Manufacturing – What is it and is North America Adopting it?

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Optimizing productivity with Smart Manufacturing Techniques is still in the initial stages of adoption in many American manufacturing firms. The government seems to have no plans yet to help companies upgrade, despite recent election results. Those who have taken advantage of Smart Manufacturing Technology(SMT) have optimized their concept generation, production and external relationships. Smart Manufacturing encompasses different phases in the manufacturing process but in itself is one category that affects all the other phases. SMT utilizes computers, information technology, and sometimes advanced robotics as well as technology that allows the processing of huge amounts of data. Thus SMT aims to gain flexibility while coping with global advancement. Training…interestingly enough…becomes geared towards the use of electronic information to achieve these rather than on human skill development.

No more is a factory a picture of men and women who work like machines doing the same tasks repeatedly. Automation is changing everything. Factories are now less dangerous, greener, less error prone, smarter and more productive than factories of the past. When Smart techniques are adopted, profits typically increase dramatically however this currently comes with a large up-front cost. In the future, the competition among companies will be headed towards “who’s smarter and more advanced.”

The usual hazards of inefficiency are eliminated in a Smart Manufacturing firm. Efficiency is optimized. Planning, research and learning are encouraged. With an intelligent Manufacturing system, realistic targets can be designed and errors, causes of delay and inefficiencies detected. Human errors are minimized and worker safety due to exposure to hazardous working environments, is assured. Supervision also becomes less necessary.

Future companies create and use information to assess profitability and to continually assess environmental impact. These two will enable the company to decide how to redesign their product or their processes towards that end. In an actual conceptual situation, the time it takes to produce a prototype is 7.1% less while the decrease in errors and defects is 27.6%. Overall reduction in the cost of production was 29.2%. Environmental impact will consider the importance of pollution reduction and recycling to help national carbon emission goals.

Manufacturing information is shared easily across the different supply chains and other industries that affect the smart processes. This is now happening in many 21st century industrial, developed and emerging nations across the globe. The EU is working hard to promote Smart Manufacturing. The US on the other hand seems to not have plans to help “smarten” American manufacturers. There seems to be no effort to modernize manufacturing technologies. America is trying to lead the world, but in this aspect, it is quickly falling behind. Soon, it will lose its leadership if this current track is maintained.

It is a misconception that the smarter a company gets, the less employees it retains. The opposite is the case as a matter of fact. The Smart Factories in the future will be able to create more sustainable “indirect” jobs that will likewise support manufacturing, and other related sectors like multi-level cyber security and multi-scale dynamic modeling and simulation. We would expect that the current 12 million jobs in American Manufacturing jobs would actually remain, while the specific skill set of the employees is diversified into multiple skill sets to augment the Smart manufacturing process.

Unfortunately, the US Government is flat out not doing enough in Smart manufacturing space. Sure, there was a 2015 program to support Smart manufacturing…however this was aimed only at clean energy manufacturing companies. What about the rest of us? It seems that in order to succeed in a global economy, we all need to independently shoulder the costs of revolution to place your shop at the top of the progress pyramid. Thus the question becomes less – Is Smart manufacturing being adopted in North America, and much more – The status of Smart manufacturing in the world. We’ll cover that one another day…

Cheers!

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