How far is your business along the path to becoming a smart factory? Are you increasing your investment in Smart Factory initiatives and projects? Given the competitiveness of the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, and the rapid pace of change, these are important questions to answer. Understanding the scale and nature of the benefits that can be derived from moving to a Smart Factory can help with answering them.
Defining the Smart Factory
Smart Factory solutions are systems comprising both physical and digital components. These systems monitor processes on the factory floor as well as in other areas of the business. They capture data, analyse data, and present data to technicians, engineers, managers, and senior decision-makers in a usable form.
At their most efficient and effective, Smart Factory systems and solutions also automate decision-making as well as automating and supporting controls.
Smart Factory Benefits
Manufacturing operations in all industries can benefit from Smart Factory technologies. The pharmaceutical and medical device industries, however, can realise those benefits faster than most.
Here are the main advantages of moving your manufacturing operations further along the Smart Factory journey.
Regulatory requirements have increased in recent years and this is a trend that is likely to continue. Given the financial costs, complexity, and increasingly inherent digital nature of modern regulatory requirements, technology is crucial to maintaining compliance.
Smart Factory technologies can take this a stage further, ensuring compliance while also benefiting your operations in other ways.
Data is the lifeblood of the Smart Factory. Therefore, one of the key benefits is the on-demand, real-time visibility of performance information that is available.
Smart Factory technologies and solutions integrate products and processes from product development to suppliers to production to distribution to the customer – and everything between.
The technologies involved also improve process controls, enhancing productivity and quality.
The Smart Factory is more flexible and adaptable than a standard production facility. This increased flexibility makes it possible for manufacturers to quickly react to (or proactively take action on) a vast range of situations, including market conditions and user demand.
The above-mentioned flexibility also improves scalability. Specifically, a Smart Factory can scale up or down faster, with fewer costs, and with minimal complexity compared to a standard production facility.
Solutions like predictive maintenance reduce machine downtime which delivers improvements in OEE results. Machine learning and digital twin technologies also improve efficiency. These improvements occur at the machine, process, and plant level.
Enhanced automation, improved OEE, faster decision-making, greater performance visibility, and more, all results in improved productivity.
Improves Employee Engagement
You will also see improved employee engagement levels and improved morale in the Smart Factory. Employees will be under less pressure to get the minimum done and will be able to work on delivering real improvements, increasing overall satisfaction.
For many of the reasons mentioned already, and for other reasons, you will reduce costs as you implement Smart Factory solutions. This applies to both manufacturing and to overall business costs.
There are initial investments required to implement Smart Factory solutions, but those investments will reduce costs in a range of areas including maintenance, material loss, consumption of energy, logistics, and more.
Smart Factory technologies enhance product quality in a range of different ways, including through enhanced user feedback, digital simulations to test how various scenarios impact product quality, and improved production processes.
The Smart Factory can also identify and take action on changes in the production environment that can impact product quality.
Increases Knowledge Sharing
With cloud computing, high-speed internet, mobile devices, and other technologies, access to information is no longer restricted by geography. Therefore, the Smart Factory increases knowledge sharing within a plant and between plants whether they are in the same city, country, continent, or not.
Improves the Patient Experience
Many of the benefits above can be viewed from a business perspective – improved productivity, enhanced OEE, reduced costs, lower risks, etc.
However, many of the above Smart Factory benefits also improve the patient, user, and consumer experience. Better product quality, faster new product introductions, more reliable product supply, and increased product customisation are just some of the ways Smart Factory solutions improve the user/patient experience.
Creates New Opportunities
Finally, the Smart Factory will help your business compete in a fast-changing world. The technologies involved enhance innovation opportunities and allow you to move into product and service areas that are currently unavailable.
Moving Forward with the Smart Factory
Transforming your manufacturing operations to become a Smart Factory is an evolutionary process. The benefits outlined above demonstrate the real returns on investment you can achieve by moving forward and ramping up your progress.