Smart Manufacturing & the IoT-Enabled Smart Factory

April 8, 2021 by Jim Phelan
Read in 11 Minutes

In the manufacturing sector, optimization is the key to survival and success. With new technological advances, many companies are assessing how to take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) to build smarter operations that allow for higher productivity and output. To keep up with today’s demands for quick delivery and excellent quality, many companies have turned to connected technology to make their warehouses smarter in order to become more efficient and remain competitive.  

What is smart manufacturing? 

Smart manufacturing is the process of using IoT technology and automation in manufacturing processes to ensure that productivity is continually being optimized. Using Indoor Intelligence to accurately track assets and help ensure worker safety, increase productivity, and improve security on your production floor is key to activating all the benefits that come from transforming your manufacturing and warehousing facilities into smart spaces.  

Over the last decade, manufacturing has entered a period of immense digital transformation. New industrial applications have emerged, including artificial intelligence, cloud computing, IoT connectivity, predictive analytics, quantum computing, innovative additive fabrication technologies like 3D printing, cyber-physical systems, and a host of other technologies. Together, these technologies inaugurated a fourth industrial revolution 

What is a smart factory?  

A smart factory is a highly digitized shop floor that continuously collects and shares data through connected machines, devices, and production systems. It’s a factory where physical production processes and operations are combined with digital technology, smart computing, and big data to create a more opportunistic system for companies that focus on manufacturing and supply chain management. The smart factory is an aspect of Industry 4.0, a new phase in the Industrial Revolution that focuses heavily on real-time manufacturing and logistics data, embedded sensors, connectivity, automation, and machine learning.  

As factories evolve in light of the data revolution, businesses need to rethink how they handle everything from automation strategies to workforce development tactics. Along the way, manufacturers will need modernized tools including robust, flexible enterprise resource planning systems as a data and transactional backbone, that help them adapt quickly as they build toward a smart-factory future.  

By connecting the physical and digital world, smart factories can monitor the entire production process, from manufacturing tools and the supply chain to individual operators on the shop floor and make impactful incremental improvements.  

The evolution of sensor and IoT technologies in Industry 4.0 

Manufacturing is rapidly changing. Industry 4.0 is not reducible to any one technology, or even a suite of technologies. It is a fundamental reconfiguration of work in the digital era. For some, Industry 4.0 is characterized by the convergence of many technologies into responsive technological ecosystems. The fact that Industry 4.0 technologies enhance, enable, and augment each other as systems clearly defines that it is a critical change in the industry.  

By using indoor positioning, you can make indoor spaces discoverable; either with Inpixon’s award-winning sensor technology or by leveraging your existing technology ecosystem. Indoor positioning systems (IPS) allow users to accurately pinpoint the location of people or assets inside a building using smartphones, mobile devices, tracking tags or other devices.  

Using a variety of sensors, IPS technology detects and tracks data about a device’s location. This can be accomplished using either internal sensors and radio receivers in smart phones and other IoT wearable devices or with radio frequency sensors installed throughout an indoor space. The location data is ingested by the positioning system generating accurate coordinates which are displayed on a digital twin, leading to unparalleled visibility of complex manufacturing facilities and the transmitting environment inside them. 

The importance of location awareness in smart manufacturing 

Location awareness is a prerequisite for situational awarenessInpixon’s Indoor Intelligence platform ingests diverse data from IoT, third-party and proprietary sensors designed to detect and position active cellulr, WiFi, UWB, & Bluetooth devices. This multidisciplinary depiction of indoor data enables users to increase revenue, decrease costs, and enhance safety.  

Location awareness and innovative technologies open the door to a whole new world of time-saving and cost-reducing applications. For example, autonomous navigation for robots throughout warehouses becomes achievable when drones are equipped with asset tracking tags. With digitized maps of an indoor environment combined with wayfindingasset trackinganalytics, and defined geofences, you can build a system that leverages recursive learning with an AI model to increase efficiencies. One such example could be drones moving throughout a facility quickly, without bumping into each other. 

The benefits of smart factories and warehouses 

The benefits of smart factories and warehouses include: 

  • Employee safety 
  • Removal of digital distraction 
  • Asset tracking 
  • Emergency preparedness 
  • Automation and operational efficiencies 
  • Environmental monitoring (temperature, moisture etc.)  
  • Access to predictive analytics 
  • And more! 

With all these benefits in place, organizations would be wise to take advantage of smart technology to improve the manufacturing processes. As internet-enabled objects become more pervasive and integrated with location-based services, companies can provide employees with the kind of location-aware solutions that increase operational efficiency and productivity. 

The wealth of opportunities for applications that integrate machine learning with indoor maps are endless in the manufacturing and warehousing sector. With the right foundational elements, a new realm of possibilities is uncovered when organizations embrace industrial IoT technologies.  

Book a short, hassle-free consultation to learn how Inpixon can help enhance your facility. 

This blog post contains forward looking statements which are subject to risks and uncertainties. Please click here to learn more. 

Jim Phelan is a VP of Business Development at Inpixon. His dynamic career reflects experiences throughout various industries including national business development and product management for industry leading lighting and controls manufacturers as well as business development for consumer electronics and home automation solution providers. He is a leader in IoT business development.