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Is COVID-19 Ushering in the Next Generation of Smart Factories?

The smart factory could prove instrumental as manufacturers try to calculate the best route forward post Covid-19.

Peter Fretty | IndustryWeek

The concept of a smart factory or even the factory of the future conjures up a number of differing images. This is true whether it's a highly efficient facility leveraging the best minds in manufacturing to create new offerings. Or the lights out, data driven factories capable of seamlessly creating customized goods on demand. The reality is probably somewhere in between.  A factory with a skilled workforce, perhaps working side-by-side with collaborative robots, making the most of AI/ML, computer vision and an entire array of data-fueled equipment.

Of course, actually realizing the smart factory classification requires undergoing digital transformation, which in itself takes on different meanings. After all, every manufacturer has unique needs. Needs that ultimately prioritize an assortment of digital technologies and capabilities. And, there is no denying the new normal will place new emphasis on certain technology investments. For instance, advanced remote capabilities include mobile augmented reality and advanced collaborations tools were not as high on the list as they are for many businesses post COVID-19.    

A true transformation goes well beyond embracing new technology. To survive in the digital economy, under the new normal, manufacturers need to ensure their investments enable outputs to align with evolving customer expectations. After all, faced with maintaining customer engagement and continuing to complete business remotely is challenging in itself.

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