The Smart Factory: All the Bits and Bobs

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“Smart factory” is another phrase that describes Industry 4.0 programs. These programs seem to have replaced CIM and CAM, but it did not make them obsolete. While these topics are getting a lot of press, there is nothing new about them. We have been on a journey to automate manufacturing since the mid-‘70s. What has evolved are faster and cheaper computers, and more complex and integrated networking. Meanwhile, the cost of wireless communications has dropped dramatically and labor and materials costs have gone up. These conditions all foster a greater return for automation, with the possibility of lights-out factories with no environmental impact, leading to “lean and green” implementations.

Happy_bits_fig1.jpgStrategy and Planning

What hasn’t changed over all these years is the need for a strategic plan to achieve a smart factory. While the investment in automation may be straightforward, the investment in integrating all these islands of automation clearly is not. The strategic planning for this integration is the major topic in the smart factory. Networking has advanced so much in the intervening years that it has now become an over-riding element of the new smart factory. These elements were introduced in the free I-Connect007 eBook Automation and Advanced Procedures in PCB Fabrication.

Figure 1 shows the six stages of planning a smart factory. Most of the elements will be your current equipment and any new islands of automation. The arrows are of significance, as they outline the flow of information that will be an important new part of your smart factory.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the February 2020 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.




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