Smart Factories: More Than Robots

Reading time ( words)

The acceptance of smart factories is a global movement across multiple industries. In electronics manufacturing specifically, China seems to be a key leader in the move to Industry 4.0. Once seen as an industrial heavyweight that depended on a huge labor pool, the environment in China has transformed. Chinese culture has a history of adaptability, and China’s industry-leading implementation of Industry 4.0 concepts is demonstrating that essential skill to the globe once again. What stands out about the Chinese transition is that automation—robotics, in particular—is a surprisingly small part of the whole solution. Don’t get me wrong, automation is a crucial component, but automation alone is not the objective.

This issue's focus on smart factories brought out a number of perspectives from our columnists and other contributors. Together, this issue reads like a roundtable discussion on smart factories from various inside-the-industry voices. Even materials and chemistries are aligning with a move toward further automation, which allows equipment manufacturers to capture and store more data, and software layers to perform more detailed analysis, prediction, and optimization. CFX, Hermes, JARA, and other machine-to-machine protocols might be all the buzz right now, but when it comes to Industry 4.0 in printed circuit fabrication, the work will involve the entire supply chain.

A case in point comes from a statement from Bill Cardoso speaking about Creative Electron’s work with AI. Cardoso said, “Inspection is graduating. Inspection for 20–30 years has been a cost center. In this new generation of connected equipment—thanks to Industry 4.0, CFX, and other initiatives—it is graduating into a data center.” Cardoso continued, “AI is critical for giving pass/ fail decisions instead of just giving them an image they have to figure out…instead of giving the customers data, we like to give them information that they can act on.”

Pressing the point that Industry 4.0 will transform the entire chain, consider this. If a major contract manufacturer implements Industry 4.0, they will pressure their suppliers—fabricators included—to implement Industry 4.0. Once a PCB fabricator follows suit, then the fabricator’s suppliers must do so as well. And once the major participants have made the switch, smaller firms will need to respond or risk being left out of the conversation. This transformation has already begun.

With all of this systemic retooling, it’s an understandable concern that jobs will shift; the age-old concern that robots will leave us all out of work remains. But where operators were a primary job function in the past, engineers and technicians will be increasingly required in manufacturing to fill the gap. To achieve Industry 4.0, machines will manage the automation and staff will use their analytical skills more than their hands. After all, people are also inherently adaptable to their environments. It’s no wonder that educational programs are strongly on the mind of industry leaders and organizations.

To read the full article, which appeared in the March 2019 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.


Suggested Items

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

06/24/2022 | Nolan Johnson, I-Connect007
Market news was certainly big this week. While the U.S. stock market continues make some large swings, the PCB and PCBA are doing their own dance with the numbers. We’re still feeling the effects of the pandemic, but it seems to be more about playing catch up. Still, the industry is showing some instability, both in positive and negative ways.

Review: Institute of Circuit Technology 2022 Annual Symposium

06/15/2022 | Pete Starkey, I-Connect007
The British Motor Museum in Warwickshire, housing the world's largest collection of historic British cars, was venue for the 2022 Annual Symposium of the Institute of Circuit Technology on June 8, which attracted a substantial gathering of manufacturers and suppliers from the UK printed circuit industry. ICT chair Emma Hudson reflected upon lessons learned during the pandemic lock-down and how the industry has successfully adapted to circumstances. She commented that the UK’s PCB fabricators are extremely busy, as she introduced an outstanding conference programme including a keynote from the incomparable Happy Holden.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

06/03/2022 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
Things are heating up in the world of PCB design and manufacturing as well. In the past week, we published quite a bit of news—some good, some not so good. Some of the news is mixed, as we see with the EMS industry shipments rising YOY in April, but falling from the previous month. It’s nice to see NASA investing in American small businesses, but they didn’t really have a choice, did they?

Copyright © 2022 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.