Put smart manufacturing to work in the factory

How to navigate digitization in the manufacturing sector with industry 4.0

by AT&T Business Editorial Team

The Internet of Things (IoT) has long been a part of the manufacturing process.

However, as the number of connected devices continues to grow, leaders of manufacturing companies are faced with challenges: how to easily store, manage, access, and analyze the information in a manner that optimizes the flow of operations.

As a result, there's an increase in investment into technologies that have emerged with Industry 4.0 manufacturing (the Industrial Internet of Things). IoT sensors, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and a host of other inputs are creating an expanded tech ecosystem, which requires a network that can support its demands.

Bruce, the robotic arm

Many of today’s digital factories are producing more data than ever before. With such a massive volume of information, critical alerts may be missed.

For example, let’s say that Bruce (the robotic arm in the video above) is sending out signals saying that his joints are "aching" and need service. Without proper care, what could be a long, profitable life may be shortened because the distress calls were lost in waves of data.

Bruce isn’t the only thing that you need to keep tabs on. Additionally, there are:   

  • supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) inputs   
  • precision machining monitors   
  • temperature controls for chemicals   
  • mobile and remote devices

So how does a manufacturer keep pace with this heavy flow of production data and address potential maintenance issues before they jeopardize the flow of operations?

The perfect blend of IT and OT

While 81 percent of manufacturers say that harnessing all of their data is a challenge, more are beginning to unite information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) to upgrade their infrastructure, creating an enhanced digital thread.

Manufacturers are seeking solutions that stretch from one edge of their network to the other. Here, where the cloud meets the digital factory, data is stored at the network edge where it can be accessed in near real-time. During peak production periods, data is onsite. When things slow down, it’s uploaded to the cloud. This solution resolves the need for costly data centers while also enabling manufacturers to access and analyze aggregated mission-critical information as it’s needed.

Faster access to data

Industry 4.0 manufacturing means manufacturers can leverage near real-time data access. Sensor-based alerts help reduce downtime. This enables manufacturers to shift from preventative to predictive maintenance by managing this data better between the network edge and the cloud.

Wasted time in a factory can translate to not only a loss in revenue, it may also cause missed opportunities for new revenue. The more efficiently data is collected, aggregated, and accessed, the more efficiently production can operate. Additionally, leaders can respond to changes in the production lifecycle and the supply chain for smarter, leaner operations.

And for Bruce, the robotic arm, now that his distress call has been heard, his aches and joints are being proactively cared for. He may now have a long, revenue-producing future with the digital factory, empowering equipment to efficiently manage a higher volume of operations-related network traffic in near real-time.

Want to see how it all works? Check out MxD (Manufacturing x Digital), a research factory in Chicago used to test and demonstrate new and emerging technologies. AT&T Business uses this facility to demonstrate how manufacturers can use video intelligence to monitor conveyor belt speed and production accuracy, monitor older equipment temperatures and maintenance, and monitor inventory levels and location.