Is the rise of smart machines too challenging for UK producers?
Is the rise of smart machines too much of a challenge for UK producers?
UK manufacturing has one of the lowest robot uptake rates in the developed world at a time when productivity is on every watch list. Developing new smart technologies make improved productivity possible, and offers adopters the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition.
The term “smart machine” refers to machines that are better connected, more flexible, more efficient and safer. They can respond quickly to new demands and maximize efficiency through intuitive collaboration with their users. A smart machine is also capable of participating in predictive maintenance practices while minimizing its own environmental footprint and total cost of ownership.
The development of smart machines is driven by the needs of end users (not some evil movie villain bent on world domination). By applying the latest technologies to machines, companies can better address consumer market trends such as universal connectivity, increasing reliance on mobile devices, and the demand for machinery that is easy to install and use.
The technologies that make all this possible include Ethernet connectivity which enables the integration of networks and improved access to data, mobile technologies for safer, more remote operation of equipment and digitization for low cost development of machine automation simulation programs.
What is meant by smart machines?
Four main characteristics put the “smart” in smart machines:
– Efficiency – Sensors and embedded knowledge enable smart machines to monitor their own components and environment. By providing the most relevant information to operators, manufacturing lines can produce in a more reliable, flexible and efficient manner. In addition, their ability to assess data quickly and in a decentralized fashion means that decision making can be accelerated, reducing backlogs etc.
– Safety & security – These two concerns are priorities for companies today and smart machines are designed with them in mind. They improve the safety of operators and minimize the security risk associated with increased networking.
– Flexibility – Plug-and-work, modularity, and reusable designs are all intrinsic elements to smart machines, making them much more user friendly than their predecessors.
– Connectivity – Direct connection to the broader network via Ethernet means smart machines offer data sharing and production planning capabilities that go far beyond those of traditional standalone machinery and automation. The digital mobility offered allows operators and engineers flexibility to access data anywhere to diagnose problems etc, speeding up their resolution and reducing downtime.
Technology is always on the move and, as with anything, both machine manufacturers and end users need to embrace the changes or risk being left behind. Smart machines offer users an array of benefits around efficiency, cost reduction, and performance improvements, as well as new ways to interact with staff, from the plant floor to the top floor
Read more from Schneider Electric on the future of smart machines in the white paper: “Understanding Smart Machines: How They Will Shape the Future.”
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