The New Industrial Revolution promises big things for big manufacturers, but what about the tens of thousands of midsize companies making everything from components to original equipment? Are there enough smarts in “smart manufacturing” to go around for all manufacturers?
The answer is an unequivocal “yes,” according to members of the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC), an organization at the forefront of the infusion of artificial intelligence into machines to transform the manufacturing enterprise. The coalition is composed of experts on the subject from academia and major companies like Owens Corning, Rockwell and General Motors.
“Even some rudimentary information technology and modeling capabilities can go a long way for small and medium-size manufacturers,” says Jim Davis, UCLA’s vice provost, information technology and chief academic technology officer and co-founder of the SMLC. “The time is right for them to start getting involved.”
Smart manufacturing is described as the convergence of enterprise IT with production IT. In this environment, disconnected and dumb machines no longer bang away at making things, completely segregated from the rest of the enterprise, supply chain partners and the demands of customers. Rather, the plant and the machines in it are integrated with data analytics software in the cloud to create agile, informative and demand-driven supply chains.
In this environment, the entire manufacturing process moves in concert with the rest of the enterprise. “Smart manufacturers are those that have evolved from production processes involving intensive labor to highly automated processes,” says Keith Nosbusch, chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation. “They’ve gone from isolated plant operations to integrated, responsive supply chains.”