Five common Business Challenges of Smart Factories (and how to master them)

Millions of manufacturers are actually confronted with the fear of going bust if they do not digitally transform - but unfortunately it’s not quite as simple. If production goes down - even for a day - the impacts can be serious, with a potential loss of millions in revenue.


From an ergonomic, economic, and environmental point of view, smart factories are seen as the way manufacturers can strive towards true digital transformation. The term "smart" encompasses enterprises that create and use data and information throughout the product life cycle with the goal of creating flexible manufacturing processes that respond rapidly to changes in demand at low cost to the firm without damage to the environment. Smart manufacturing enables all information about the manufacturing process to be available when it is needed, where it is needed, and in the form it is needed across entire manufacturing supply chains and complete product life cycles.


However, for many manufacturers the smart factory is still an unattainable dream. According to a study by Capgemini from 2017, 76% of manufacturers have an ongoing smart factory initiative or are working towards one, but only 14% are satisfied with their level of success. However, manufacturers should not feel overwhelmed and also not change too much without proper counsel.


Imagine you are an industrial automation manufacturer with global aspirations who needs to accelerate lead times and product customization. Let’s have a look at five common business challenges of your future smart factory and some ideas how to master them.


Smart factory challenge 1: You need more than just off-the-shelf components
This diversity and scope means that expert customization is your key requirement. Look for a professional retailer of programmable logic for smart manufacturing. Their products have to work across many industries and integrate a huge variety of information flows, from the back office to visualization and control systems on the factory floor. For applications where off-the-shelf products do not quite fit, you need a partner who offers modified-standard and full-custom designs, tailored to the individual demands of your application. You should also make sure that you get the same high quality, ruggedness and longevity that is offered in comparable standard based products.

Smart factory challenge 2: Your supply chain is complex
The ability to simplify a complex supply chain allows you to spend your valuable resources engineering innovative products and services, enabling you to get to market quicker and realize faster time to revenue. To achieve this, you may need a broad set of solutions, in multiple configurations, to be available with stringent lead times - above and beyond what’s available from most technology suppliers. And as global operations expand, the supply chain must also extend to a growing scope of geographical areas. ‘Smart’ products allow companies to gain and keep insight into their supply chains, while simultaneously demonstrating their compliance to international regulations, and also with powerful search engines that use unique codes to identify (amongst others) production or distribution batches.

Smart factory challenge 3: Lead times should be reduced
To succeed in today’s competitive environment, retailers must meet consumer expectations for speed and convenience. To do this, it’s vital to maximize efficiency in the supply chain and ultimately reduce lead-time. You need for example tailored inventory programs that enable delivery in just a few weeks, dramatically outperforming typical industry lead times. This helps reducing development cost and enables fast lead times for customer specific devices. The supply chain of long-life products benefits from supplier insights and roadmap planning such as advance end-of-life visibility and last-time buying that prevents disruptions.

Smart factory challenge 4: You want product longevity
Ensuring long-term availability of technology helps keeping products in production for as long as possible, maximizing the value of your investment in these offerings. Kontron for example has an extended availability cycle, with global return-to-depot programs that help to ensure efficient management of failures in the field and contribute to positive customer experiences all over the world. A global presence also allows us to provide same time-zone technical support, decrease lead times and provide personal services.

Smart factory challenge 5: You have rigorous demands for ruggedization
This is no problem at all! Extreme ruggedization is built into many high quality products, offering the ability to withstand exposure to water, dust, shock, vibration and a host of other harsh conditions. Built to industry standards ‘rugged equipment’ is often also highly customizable for the needs of a specific implementation.


What are your current challenges in making your business smart? Did you already find a way to master them?

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