The so-called fourth industrial revolution (or Industry 4.0) is transforming industrial buildings, pushing them to become smart and sustainable factories with reduced carbon footprint.
The Internet, interconnectivity, and artificial intelligence offer almost infinite opportunities to the managers of these facilities and industrial centres. From sensors that warn the system when stock is low, to devices that detect a potential fault in a machine that needs servicing, there are many usages to be found in a “smart factory”. This article reviews the main ones.
What is a Smart Factory?
A smart factory integrates digitalisation, automated processes, and internal data tracking to improve its productivity, efficiency, and reduced carbon footprint.
Why do you need your Factory to be Smart?
Technology is evolving fast. Although not all technological innovations are necessary, falling behind can be a barrier to your competitiveness and future business opportunities.
The 3 main reasons to modernise your industrial plant are the following:
1. A Better Control of your Processes to remain Competitive in the Marketplace
From order and warehouse management to the supply chain right through to energy consumption and access control, multiple elements can affect your productivity. If any of these processes is disrupted, it will impact the rest of the supply chain. This disruption can cause delays in the manufacture or delivery of your products.
A smart factory should have a high level of interconnectivity and many predictive elements that would help you not only to solve problems when they occur but also to anticipate and prevent them.
2. Minimise your Carbon Footprint
Commitment to the environment is a key factor in smart buildings. One of the goals is to be more efficient and consume less energy. It will save costs and your facility will also have a lower environmental impact. Whether it is a direct motivation for your company or a requirement of your investors and customers, the environmental dimension cannot be disregarded.
3. Comply with International Regulations and Standards
Depending on the kind of product you develop, and the type of industry you work in, you may need international certifications such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001, or ISO 50001. These accreditations, related to quality, environment, and energy are not compulsory. However, they are commonly used to guarantee certain quality standards in the UK, in Europe, and in the rest of the world.
Energy Efficiency in a Smart Factory
Smart factories are interconnected and highly energy-dependent facilities, driven by different technologies and hardware. As a result, and considering the high level of production machinery you have in place, energy consumption is quite likely to be high.
Although there are certain aspects in which you can not skimp on energy, you can still control your energy consumption by ensuring that your factory is equipped with the necessary smart functionalities, connectivity, and automation.
You could carry out an energy audit, refurbish your facilities with efficient machinery and track your costs. You could also implement an energy management system (EMS) such as the Spacewell Energy (Dexma) Platform. It would help you manage energy more efficiently, reduce your consumption, save money and thus contribute to the overall operation of your facility.
DEXMA Analyse can help you compare data from all your supplies and sources of energy (e.g., gas, water, fuel, etc.), in your factories. You will be able to analyse real-time data, identify recurring problems and assess your savings. This will help you draw parallels and take action in the relevant areas.
Do you have multiple factories? If your buildings are not smart, you will have to compare your consumption either by manually checking your bills one after the other or by doing an audit. On the other hand, if your buildings are equipped with smart elements, then you will be able to compare them automatically, set up alerts, levels, etc. You will have the possibility to manage them together hence, enhancing your industrial processes thanks to their connection. The Spacewell Energy (Dexma) Platform will not only help you visualise the data of your buildings as a whole but will also allow you to set standards and to identify specific plants or areas to act on.
What Elements make your Factory Smart?
As mentioned, a smart factory is interconnected. It relies on a combination of software and hardware elements that need to be taken into account:
- Interconnected technologies and sensors (Industrial Internet of Things): Objects interrelated through the internet and other protocols.
- Big data: the automatic collection and processing of data in real-time is the key element of intelligent buildings.
- Artificial Intelligence: systems based on artificial intelligence, such as the DEXMA Platform, which not only collect information but also learn from the data they process to detect anomalies and anticipate problems.
- Building and workspace management systems, such as BMS (Building Management System), CMMS (Computerised Maintenance Management System) facilities or SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) in particular in a factory.
- Cybersecurity, although not a technology per se, it is a key aspect of smart buildings. The more connections, systems and software connected, the higher the risk of attack, thus the greater the need for data protection and privacy policies.
- Trained employees: You will need to train your employees, or hire experts who understand how these technologies work. For instance, it will demand your IT and systems teams to be well trained in cybersecurity so that automation can be a benefit to you, not a threat.
How to turn your Factory into a Smart Building?
As we have seen so far, many components need to be taken into account in order for your factory to be converted into a smart building. When the time comes, you will definitely need to rely on professionals who can help you. Here are the steps to start the transition from your factory into a smart one:
- First, what kind of technology do you already have installed?
Sensors, consumption meters, a BMS, a SCADA, or a CMMS. Maybe a sensor is already installed that no one remembers? Or outdated software? Or even a very useful programme only used by a handful of your employees? Any software or meter already available is a good starting point to gather information and data about the operation of your industrial plant.
- Second, what other technologies could you implement?
Of those mentioned in the previous paragraph, which ones didn’t you consider but could be useful to you? You can install smart meters and start using a CMMS maintenance system, or even an energy management system (EMS).
- Third, how can these systems integrate with each other to be of most help to you?
Most of these tools can be connected to each other to share information and help you have a global view of your facilities. The synergies created when powerful tools such as SCADAs, BMS, CMMS, and EMS are combined are the secret of the most innovative manufacturing companies. If you want to know more, you can also read our article on the integration of CMMS with an EMS.
At Spacewell Energy (Dexma) we are experts in energy management solutions, and we know the hidden savings potential in factories. If you want to implement an EMS in your industrial plant, or if you are interested in knowing in more detail the functionalities that the DEXMA Platform can provide, please contact us.
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