You may have heard the term “smart manufacturing” thrown around a lot during the past few years, but exactly what is smart manufacturing?
It depends on who you ask.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines it as fully integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems that respond in real time to meet changing demands and conditions in the factory, in the supply network and in customer needs.
But the Internet is rife with other definitions. Just type “What is smart manufacturing?” into your search engine and you’ll come up with a multitude of answers.
For instance, smart manufacturing is:
- A process that employs computer controls, modeling, big data and other automation to improve manufacturing efficiencies.
- A technology-driven approach that utilizes Internet-connected machinery to monitor the production process. The goal of smart manufacturing is to identify opportunities to automate operations and use data analytics to improve manufacturing performance.
- A specific application of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Deployments involve embedding sensors in manufacturing machines to collect data on their operational status and performance. In the past, that information typically was kept in local databases on individual devices and used only to assess the cause of equipment failures after they occurred.
- A broad category of manufacturing whose goals are to optimize concept generation, production and product transaction. While manufacturing can be defined as the multi-phase process of creating a product out of raw materials, smart manufacturing is a subset that employs computer control and high levels of adaptability.
- A wide-ranging category of manufacturing that employs computer-integrated manufacturing, elevated levels of adaptability, rapid design changes, digital information technology and more flexible technical workforce training. Other goals sometimes include fast changes in production levels based on demand, optimization of the supply chain, and efficient production and recyclability. In this concept, a smart factory has interoperable systems, multi-scale dynamic modeling and simulation, intelligent automation, strong cybersecurity and networked sensors. The broad definition of smart manufacturing covers many different technologies. Some of the key technologies in the smart manufacturing movement include big data processing capabilities, industrial connectivity devices and services, and advanced robotics.
- The fourth iteration of the Industrial Revolution, the first of which was characterized by steam power and the power loom; the second by the assembly line; and the third by automation and data-enhanced automation.
Those are just a few definitions of smart manufacturing that you can find on the Internet. But there’s also an in-person, hands-on answer to the question, “What is smart manufacturing?” You can find it at the Smart Manufacturing Experience 2020, June 2-4 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.
You’ll find inspiration and education about every smart technology in manufacturing such as additive manufacturing and 3D printing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, augmented reality and virtual reality, automation and robotics, cybersecurity, data analytics, the IIoT and workforce transformation. You’ll also be able to explore and acquire Factory 4.0 technologies that allow pieces of equipment to talk to one another, control operations remotely, share data, predict challenges and safeguard sensitive information. In the process, you’ll join other leading companies that are looking for, and finding, intelligent answers to the questions such as, “How will smart manufacturing benefit me?” and, of course, “What is smart manufacturing?"