We recently published an article on the IoT (Internet of Things) and how it could benefit manufacturing and metal fabrication. That has spurred some discussion on smart manufacturing and the differences/similarities between the two. We thought it may be time to take a closer look.
What is Smart Manufacturing?
There are as many definitions as there are smart manufacturing processes. One simple definition is that it is the merging of operating technologies (OT) and information technologies (IT) to have them more effectively work together seamlessly in real time. The main focus of though is to increase velocity in manufacturing.
Is It Different than IoT?
The IoT is the connection of any device that has electronics and software. This includes anything from smartphones to traffic lights. Smart manufacturing tends to be more focused on improving the supply chain and manufacturing process of a particular manufacturing sector. It can become a part of the IoT, but for now, at least, it is a separate, more focused process.
What Does this Mean in the Fabrication Business?
If a simple smart phone app can turn on a simple ceiling fan at your home, think of the possibilities in metal fabrication. Consider the amount of information that could be gathered from various separate pieces of machinery like material handling equipment and cutting and polishing devices. It involves combing the knowledge of control software with customer orders. Imagine all of this information being combined to formulate a more sophisticated process to streamline and improve metal fabrication. The results would be less production time, minimized waste, and maximized inventory. This data can be shared with suppliers as well as customers. Much of this knowledge is already there. It is a matter of best tapping into it and putting it to its best use.
What are the Smart Manufacturing Institutes?
These Institutes are designed to look at specific manufacturing segments and how to best use sensors and data to improve manufacturing efficiently. Some believe these institutes may ultimately improve certain segments of manufacturing by up to 50%. To take advantage of the combined knowledge of these various institutes, they then become part of the larger National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The NNMI then serves as a clearing house, determining how to best weave these processes together.
Wiley and Smart Fabrication
Because metal fabrication plays such an important role in the entire manufacturing process, we understand the importance of embracing smart fabrication at Wiley Metal. Smart fabrication is good for our customers and ultimately good for us and our team. It keeps us in the forefront of metal fabrication and ultimately better prepares us for our place in the IoT.
Keeping up with technology in any business isn’t easy. Heck, many of us don’t understand the capabilities of our smart phones. But it is very much worth understanding new manufacturing processes and our ultimate place in the IoT. The future is coming whether we are ready for it or not. We think its best to be prepared.