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What is smart manufacturing?

Published: April 26, 2017

The term smart manufacturing has been being used in the business world for several years now, so it’s likely that you will have heard it flying around. Often, it’s used in the same breath as the ‘Internet of Things’ and the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. But do you fully understand what these concepts are?

If your knowledge is a little hazy, it’s unlikely that your organisation will be reaping the full benefits of these modern ways of working, which is why we’ve compiled this simple guide to what smart manufacturing actually is.

The fourth industrial revolution

The industrial revolution of the 19th century was a time of extraordinary progress and development, which has remained unrivalled ever since. However, with significant advances in technology in recent years, it is said that the second and third industrial revolutions have since taken place.

At present, the biggest progress taking place regards robots and artificial intelligence, with technology now able to do things scientists could only dream of being a reality just a few short years ago.

As such, the current landscape has been dubbed the fourth industrial revolution. You might also have seen this written as 4IR in some instances.

This revolution is all about using big data, analysing it, taking the insights gathered and applying them to artificial intelligence so that tasks can be performed in a more accurate and technical way than ever before.

So, where does smart manufacturing fit into this?

Smart manufacturing

Smart manufacturing is a huge part of the fourth industrial revolution, as this term refers to the tasks that machines are programmed to perform based on big data and analytics.

As the name suggests, smart manufacturing is basically all about making things in a clever way. While the first computers were able to carry out tasks previously performed by humans in a quicker and more accurate manner, there were limits to their analytical abilities.

However, thanks to significant technological developments, this is no longer necessarily an obstacle, with machines powered by artificial intelligence able to use big data to think and make decisions for themselves.

Robots can quickly complete calculations beyond the realm of human capabilities, meaning business leaders can trust them to make informed business decisions on their behalf, as well as leaving them to get on with manufacturing tasks without any extra assistance.

Examples of smart manufacturing that you may have heard of include 3D printing, using big data to operate demand-driven supply chains and the Internet of Things (IoT), which we explain in a little more detail below.

The Internet of Things

The IoT goes hand-in-hand with smart manufacturing, as it’s all about using technology to perform everyday tasks. For example, you might be able to control your heating at home or turn your lights off via your smartphone.

In a similar manner, organisations embracing smart manufacturing are able to remotely control machines to programme them to perform specific tasks.

We hope this helps to make the new world of smart manufacturing a little clearer for you, but please contact us if you’d like to find out more about any of the concepts touched on in this guide.

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