Connectivity within the manufacturing processes is not new; however, the introduction of disruptive technologies and trends such as the fourth industrial revolution (4.0) have leveraged the concept of smart manufacturing in several industrial verticals. Technologies such as big data analytics and autonomous robots are enabling companies to take the leap towards flexible and data-driven manufacturing processes. Moreover, the need to develop and implement an effective transformation strategy to adopt these technologies and sustain competition has encouraged the application of smart manufacturing platforms.
One such case in point of manufacturers integrating smart manufacturing platforms is Ericsson, a company operating in multinational networking and telecommunications. The company is using cost-effective and reliable connectivity provided by Mobile IoT networks to transform its factories in Estonia, Sweden, and China into smart factories with the desired efficiency and flexibility. Ericsson has found the potential of Mobile IoT and other cellular networks to support an array of different manufacturing use cases, enabling the optimization of manufacturing processes via a single communication system, thereby efficiently monitoring the location of critical assets, stock levels, output of workstations, and performance of text fixtures and production tools such as high-precision screwdrivers used in production lines.
Over the past decade, companies are seeking ways to sustain competition in the international market, which has upsurged the adoption of automation in operations. Automation offers several benefits such as advancement of product quality, improvement in resource yield, reduction in labor costs and waste, and expansion of production flexibility. According to a study conducted by Harris Williams & Co. in 2017, the annual global spending on automation systems significantly increased from USD 65 billion in 2000 to approx. USD 155 billion in 2016, depicting more than 140% growth. In addition to the above-mentioned benefits, technological advancements such as improved sensors, innovative end-of-arm tool instruments, flexible robotic platforms, and machine vision have led to the creation of better infrastructure for smart manufacturing platforms.
Standards associated with sustainability evaluation for manufacturing systems are studied to be evolving in dimensions such as product lifecycle, production lifecycle, and the business cycle. The current applied standards associated with gaining sustainability for manufacturing follow the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology standardized in the ISO 14000 series on environmental management. Additionally, the introduction of initiatives and policies such as cloud computing, big data, and analytics has resulted in standards developing organizations (SDOs) focusing explicitly on the impact of the technologies mentioned. For instance, in 2014, the IEC Standardization Management Board (SMB) set up a new strategic group, namely SG: Industry 4.0-Smart Manufacturing, which includes defining terminologies adopted, standardization of projects in progress, summarizing existing standards, and developing a common strategy for the implementation of smart manufacturing. Similarly, in 2014, the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association launched the Smart Manufacturing Working Group with an aim to effectively manage its projects associated with smart manufacturing. The formation of such groups depicts the growing trend of the adoption of smart manufacturing platforms.
Internet of Things (IoT): The deployment of IoT, including agile and large scale manufacturing and remote maintenance, has overseen several major companies harnessing IoT technologies in industrial and automation environments. For instance, the European Union (EU) has developed several projects to develop an IoT reference model and architecture. One such project, IoT@Work, is an EU project led by Siemens AG, which has a focus on harnessing IoT technologies in the industrial environment. Similarly, in the U.S., key players such as General Motors (GE), IBM Corporation, Intel, CISCO, and AT&T has initiated a project named ‘The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC),’ which is focused on defining and developing reference architecture and frameworks interoperability that would be helpful in drafting standards in the future. The scope of the project is wider than that of industry 4.0 as it addresses not only manufacturing systems but also healthcare, energy, and infrastructure sectors. Such attention in IoT and associated technologies will build a strong infrastructure for the deployment of platforms such as smart manufacturing, paving way for the growth of the smart manufacturing platform market.
Big Data and Cloud Manufacturing: While most of the existing associations and professional societies globally are addressing SMS in some ways, several industrial verticals are formed to address the broader principal needs of SMS. For instance, in the U.S., the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC), a non-profit organization, is committed to the creation of a scaled, shared, infrastructure called the smart manufacturing platform. SMLC activities help set futuristic standards by integrating smart manufacturing applications. Additionally, the U.S. government initiated a series of institutes to support U.S. manufacturing, which is collectively termed as the National Network of Manufacturing Institutes (NNMI). They address different challenge areas for advanced manufacturing that help several manufacturers get fruitful insights in deploying smart manufacturing platforms.
On the basis of deployment, the smart manufacturing platform market has been segmented into on-premise and cloud. Cloud computing applications are observed to be having a significant virtual impact on several levels or aspects of manufacturing companies. For instance,
Enterprise Level: The deployment of cloud impacts the way in which companies manage operations such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), finance management, data analytics, and workforce training. Additionally, it will be integral for manufacturers to effectively manage industrial supply chains
Manufactured Product Level: At this level, the deployment of cloud will help companies effectively transform processes, from product research, product design, and product development to manufacturing. Additionally, cloud deployment makes new technologies and systems accessible, such as new manufacturing production systems, including 3D printing, generative design, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT).
The optimization and efficiency of assets are largely focused on the production process and identification of moving assets and finished goods; for instance, production planning, scheduling, and predictive maintenance. Smart manufacturing platforms help in effectively easing the above-mentioned process by offering benefits such as increasing the performance of assets and production efficiency, reducing costs associated with asset downtime and failure, improving asset maintenance and developing new associated services, and increasing the utilization of assets from a time and resource allocation perspective, among others. Thus, smart manufacturing platforms offer the ideal solution for asset and condition monitoring.
New digital and smart technologies are improving processes within the European manufacturing industry through Industry 4.0. This European Union (EU) funded project brings together a range of European and international organizations to study issues affecting competitiveness, such as novel technologies, globalization, regional smart specialization, the role of small companies, local value chains, skills development, and sustainability, among others. The project found that manufacturers believed that technological change is not just about production efficiency via automation and digitalization but also about creating an established platform for disruptive technologies such as biotech, nanotech, neurotech, green and renewables, ICT and mobile technology, 3D, artificial intelligence, robotics, sensors, and space technology to grow. Such a trend depicts the potential in the smart manufacturing platform market to grow, as these platforms help manufacturers build infrastructure to run their operations using such disruptive technologies.
Asia-Pacific is witnessing a rising tide of automation and intelligence, and regulatory bodies across countries such as China, India, Japan, and South Korea are adopting disruptive technologies through investments and drafting policies. For instance, in 2017, the South Korean government announced funding of approx. USD 1 billion associated with artificial intelligence (AI). Similarly, the government of Singapore has unveiled a National AI Program with an investment of about USD 107 million. Such initiatives depict a scenario in which the region is open to experiment with technologies that would help the economy grow.
Some of the key players in the global smart manufacturing platform market are
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