Digitalization, AI, and IoT at a Manufacturing Site

Automation, digitalization, and the use of AI and other technologies are some of the main trends in the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing companies are no longer limiting themselves to just production optimization: they are also trying to offer a more convenient service to the end user. This not only increases their reputation in the eyes of the client but also allows shortening the supply chain and saving on intermediary services.

For example, online configurators that have been used since the 2010s allow clients to design a mechanism on their computer and then send the detailed order for production. And companies are willing to work with retail orders, because the equipment is easily reconfigurable, and creating unique configurations in a single copy is no longer complicated or unprofitable.

When a user makes a configuration online (for example, a chassis consisting of an engine, gearbox, and sensor), they can immediately evaluate the costs, since the price is pulled up in real time, depending on the parts selected. The client sees a 3D model of their configuration after sending the application and can also track changes in the order status. Along with that, the existence of a model and all specifications in a digital form simplifies the work of specialists at the factory.

The use of accurate digital models makes it possible to automate a significant part of the production processes. Machines maintain production independently and exchange data. This allows completing almost any order within a few days. On average, from the moment a model is designed to the moment a client receives a finished mechanism, no more than a week passes (provided that the client and the factory are located in the same region).

Today, every stage of automated production still has to be controlled, but this is more a precaution than a necessity. Soon the machines will be able to perform such work completely autonomously. As an additional option, clients can be offered the opportunity to configure the mechanism together with the engineers of the manufacturer company — this can be implemented using VR technologies.

Now IT specialists who work in factories realize that almost any process can be digitized and automated. The question is how appropriate it is because some processes are still easier and cheaper to entrust to people. Managers of manufacturing companies understand that there is no point in automating everything, and it will take time to see which processes would be more effective if changed and which processes are reasonable to leave the same.

In the global manufacturing industry, there is a developing trend of creating stable unified processes, installing a workable system architecture, and, most importantly, creating a suitable culture within the company. It is also possible to implement various digitalization projects. AI can be used to optimize supply chains and material flows by integrating various data such as tariffs, laws, and framework agreements. However, this will require a large amount of quality data.

With the introduction of IoT, some additional opportunities appear. Self-directed and remote-controlled mechanisms will be able to connect to the network, exchange information, and provide data on their status. An engine can be replaced before its wear and tear causes damage to the machine. Maybe customers will not buy motors in the future but pay for an operating cycle.

However, the implementation of such technologies requires high-performance networks and reliable cloud systems. What is more, the design of the system architecture should be done by professionals. We at Andersen have many years of experience in software development for manufacturing companies. Case studies of projects belonging to this direction can be viewed on our website, and on our blog we regularly publish other articles related to IT.