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How to define smart factories

How to define smart factories
Perhaps the buzzword of this decade is "smart." No industry is exempt from it. From phones to homes and buildings are trying to get the tag. And one industry that is taking serious interest in it is manufacturing. Known by various names, from smart, intelligent factories to the larger concept of industry 4.0, the manufacturing sector is slowly witnessing a revolution that could make its impact felt across several other divisions.
 
“At the heart of any smart factory is intelligence, said Andy Ward, CTO of Ubisense. “At Ubisense, we believe location intelligence is an essential component of this: if something moves and it is process-critical, you need to know where it is and what it is doing. Industry 4.0 describes an environment in which flexible, intelligent processes leverage real-time data from sensors connected across the entire value chain to enable optimization of industrial processes. These cyber-physical systems leverage big data analytics to translate full operational visibility into unprecedented manufacturing agility and efficiency.”
 
Others point out that the terminology could be different depending on where you are, but the concept remains the same.
 
“There are multiple definitions depending on the region where this topic gets covered,” said Aloke Palsikar, Senior VP & Global Head Manufacturing Vertical at Tech Mahindra.However going beyond the conventional definitions of the terms ‘smart factory’ or ‘industry 4.0’, to me, these terms reflect the fundamental shift in terms of how technology is changing the face of manufacturing processes through ‘connected architecture’. Today various stages of manufacturing processes right up to the lowest level of a machine or equipment are now getting directly connected through sensors/ IoT and are able to communicate directly with each other making the whole chain transparent and more efficient. The machines, the equipment can now be enabled not only to communicate each other but also with their higher and lower systems and to take intelligent decisions independent of human intervention. This is the modern smart factory.”
 
“A smart factory is an industry that leverages on IoT devices to improve the efficiency, continuity and security of its operations,” said Andrea Sorri, Director of Business Development for Government, City Surveillance and Critical Infrastructures at Axis Communications. “Real-time and remote communication among the production components and the operators enables factories to be a showcase for automation.” 
Johnny Chang, Associate VP for iAutomation Systems and Solutions Group at Advantech pointed out that that the company defines smart factory concept in two phases.
“Currently we define these as two separate phases,” Chang said. “For instance, smart factory is part of industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 will include the design phase, manufacturing phase and the logistic phase. The whole thing is called 4.0, but smart factory becomes the middle of the process.” 
 
Jerry Huang, Project Manager at IEI, elaborated further on the topic. “From my observation, smart factories need at least four elements,” Huang said. “The first one is machine to machine (M2M) integration. The second thing would be the domain knowledge. The third thing would be the business intelligence of the front end and back end. The fourth is the market demand. These four come from four different domains, which means if we want to define smart factory in one word, it is integration.”
 
The idea of dividing the concept into four categories appears to be popular in the industry. Vinay Nathan, CEO of Altizon also explained the topic in four points. “Industry 4.0 has four pillars, the smart factory being one of them,” Nathan said. “But essentially, the way we look at it, there is the smart factory, there is the digital customer experience as another key pillar, there is the connected supply chain and there is the digital enterprise. Any industry 4.0 initiative starts off based on one of these pillars and quickly moves into overlapping areas.”


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