What is the factory of the future? A decade ago, some would have described a setting where robots, not humans, manned assembly lines following the same processes and procedures of their time. Today, the answer would be very different.
With the continued and rapid advancement of machine-to-machine (M2M) technology, the factory of the future is a smart, interconnected web of wireless machines sharing information and collaborating to complete the production cycle. Many of those machines are robots working on the frontlines, but there are an increasing number of others devices working in the background to connect every process and player involved in the manufacturing value chain.
In the end, the smart factory not only completes the production cycle faster at lower costs, it also adapts processes to optimize operational efficiencies via new information captured and analyzed from customers, clients, processes and other inputs to create a systemically efficient workplace with almost zero waste.
This utopian factory isn’t one of fantasy. Instead, many companies are already in the process of transforming their factories into industrial automation plants. This transition will be enabled by efficient M2M communications that can transmit information to control devices on the plant floor and collect data about the various processes on the plant floor.
This move toward the smart factory is creating an opportunity, MarketsandMarkets predicts, that could reach $246.03 billion by 2018, more than 8% compound annual growth rate between 2013 and 2018.
However, for the smart factory to really take off and provide all the benefits of industrial automation it will be depend on effective and efficient M2M device management that will ensure seamless connectivity to the complex smart factory ecosystem, driving real-time, convenience-driven automation.
Frost & Sullivan, in their report on the Future of Internet of Things in Industrial Automation, also calls for the standardization and interoperability of networks, protocols and interfaces as well as putting in place security frameworks around increasingly mission-critical infrastructure. As such, they warn vendors, carriers and service providers to adjust their capabilities and offerings to meet the new demands of a smarter and connected industry.
Sources: reportlinker.com/p02012716-summary/M2M-Communication-in-Manufacturing.html marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/smart-factory.asp