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Manufacturing Optimization: Improving Production Processes

Manufacturing optimization enables a production facility to run more efficiently. In order to remain competitive, present-day manufacturers must have a mindset of continuous improvement. Through the use of advanced technologies, manufacturers can effectively improve production processes to the point of optimization.

Production optimization is the end goal for companies, but the goal post is always moving. That’s why it is necessary for manufacturers to pair process optimization with continuous improvement. Manufacturers looking to achieve production optimization must strategize their implementation of smart manufacturing technologies. But before adopting new technologies, manufacturers should take steps to ensure they understand the gaps in their production operations.

Research and Analysis of Production Processes

Before manufacturers can work to optimize production, they have to figure out what their production is lacking. This requires an in-depth analysis of current production processes. Companies must learn what works and what needs to be adjusted. Simply acquiring new technologies to throw at a problem will not be effective without a thorough understanding of the issue.

Understanding what doesn’t work and why it doesn’t work is the first step in the manufacturing optimization process. Once a manufacturer discovers why something doesn’t work, it will be easier to identify and implement effective solutions for optimizing production. Having an in-depth plan that specifies how to address production issues will make implementing new technologies into operations a much smoother process.

Achieving Manufacturing Optimization With Smart Technologies

The main reason many manufacturing operations aren’t optimized is because they aren’t efficient enough. To maximize efficiency, manufacturers start by implementing automation. Robots and other automation technologies can take over manual labor jobs throughout a production facility. In general, robots are more efficient than human workers at heavily manual and repetitive tasks. Unlike humans, robots can continuously work with no breaks, days off, or vacations.

Integrating robots into production is key to manufacturing optimization. Having robots take over manual tasks also frees up human workers to focus on more value-added work, which makes the whole workforce more efficient. With automation successfully installed on the production floor, manufacturers can continuously run production operations. But this smart technology can be used for more than just manual production tasks. Manual digital processes can also be optimized with automation.

Digital processes that require a lot of manual up-front work include tasks like data validation and content management. Once robots are handling production, the human workforce will be more focused on these digital tasks. Automating this work will help manufacturers to maximize the efficiency of their human workers alongside their robot workforce. Recurring tasks are the best candidates for automation.

Once a production facility has implemented automation into operations, it has a basis for optimization. On their own, automation technologies aren’t enough to maximize a manufacturer’s optimization potential. But after adopting automation, manufacturers can integrate other smart technologies, such as smart sensors, into production.

Smart sensors can be placed throughout different points in the production process to collect data. These sensors can also collect performance data on machinery within the manufacturing facility. This data is necessary to determine which automated processes can still be improved. Automation makes production more efficient, but there is still room for improvement. After using smart sensors to collect data, the next step is analysis.

However, analyzing data with the goal of optimization can be a complex process. To perform data analysis most effectively, manufacturers should implement artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. AI systems are able to analyze data quickly and accurately to identify areas within the production process that can be optimized. Depending on how advanced these systems are and how connected a facility is, AI can even deploy these production optimization tactics.

Artificial Intelligence and Other Manufacturing Optimization Technologies

There are multiple smart technologies available to manufacturers to help optimize production. As already discussed, the combination of smart sensors and AI allows manufacturers an in-depth look at a machine’s performance. However, machine data can be used for more than just identifying performance improvements. This data also enables manufacturers to utilize predictive maintenance tactics.

Predictive maintenance equips manufacturers with the right knowledge so they can proactively schedule machine maintenance throughout the facility. This helps to minimize downtime of critical machinery and ensure production runs smoothly. Utilizing predictive maintenance assists manufacturers with optimizing their maintenance schedules to cause the least disruptions to the production process.

Smart sensors allow companies to adopt tactics like predictive maintenance because they enable interconnectivity within a manufacturing facility. But these digital connections also set up the factory for another smart technology: the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). A factory that uses smart sensors and devices that are digitally connected is utilizing IIoT. While AI analyzes data to identify and implement process improvements, the connectivity provided by IIoT is what enables AI systems to collect this data. This makes interconnectivity a necessity for manufacturing production optimization.

Another smart technology manufacturers can utilize is digital twin technology. This technology allows product designers to create a virtual model of a design. They can then use the digital twin to test different scenarios and learn how a product will react. Not only does this save money and time, but it also helps engineers optimize the product’s design. The ability to virtually test a product design and fix any issue, or to make design tweaks as needed, has made digital twins invaluable to optimizing the manufacturing design process.

Production Optimization in Manufacturing

Manufacturers must be continuously improving their production operations in order to remain competitive in an increasingly advancing industrial sector. The path to manufacturing optimization requires in-depth analysis of current production processes to identify areas for improvement.  As manufacturing becomes more technology-based, manufacturers will turn to smart technologies to achieve production optimization.

From automation and robotics to AI and IIoT, there’s a plethora of advanced technologies for manufacturers to utilize within their operations. Automation enables manufacturers to maximize efficiency, both throughout production and digital processes. IIoT and AI digitally connect a production facility to collect and analyze performance data and make improvements based on findings. Though technology adoption is necessary for manufacturers, it is only the start of manufacturing optimization. Manufacturers must stay vigilant about continuously analyzing their production operations and implementing improvements to maximize efficiency and productivity.

If you’re looking to learn more about optimizing your production operations and want to meet with dozens of smart technology vendors, attend the Smart Manufacturing Experience.