Smart Manufacturing

Our products are becoming more complex, and manufacturers are creating a smarter way to keep up. Smarter manufacturing leads to an increase in the speed in which we can produce and the quality manufacturers can ensure. Factories are no longer just conveyor belts for assembly but rather hubs of innovation covered in diagnostical tools to ensure everything is running smoothly. If you walk a plant floor you'll notice that touch screens and data loggers are starting to catch up in terms of numbers with levers and switches. Sensors now dot factories, providing critical data that ensures that manufacturer's complex machines are running efficiently and that the work environment is remaining safe for its workers.

Smart manufacturing came about as a product of previous generations of manufacturing. We learned from mistakes in the past while increasing our need for data so we can better learn to avoid our mistakes. This process innovation is interdependent on the products our society demands. When all we use to demand was an automobile that had the power equivalent of a lawnmower, our factories didn't need highly precise robotics. Building off this example, automobiles used to be little more than a motorized carriage with an engine designed to make it to the city and back. Today our cars are designed to take us across state lines without fear of breaking down, lasting for hundreds of thousands of miles. They have radios that connect to satellites in space to play music, programs to park themselves, and cameras to replace mirrors. As we incorporate more and more complex, high technology into our everyday products the demand for better production processes will continue to grow.

Our processes have evolved with our products, safety and quality have replaced the lack of care that once plagued industries. Students in college now major in supply chain management and safety in the hopes of landing lucrative positions in companies that also recognize this importance we place on the processes of industry.

When industry was new, safety concerns were neglected in favor of profit. The New York Triangle Shirtwaist company is a cautionary tale for what happens when safety and the danger of manufacturing machines is ignored. The company had locked their doors during operating hours and failed to maintain their elevators to the factory floors. This bottle necking effect would be dangerous when a fire started from unsafe waste bin caught fire. If the owners had monitored their elevators and installed a sprinkler system the fire wouldn't have been deadly. Today, our manufacturing plants are covered in systems to prevent such an accident from taking place. Temperature sensors are used to monitor the heat given off from production machines to ensure they are within a safe tolerance. Voltage sensors are used to monitor electronics so that an exposed wire or a power surge can be prevented.

If we continue our trend towards better products, our processes can only improve, creating smarter manufacturing. To keep up with these complex products, people who monitor and update processes are going to need more and more data to study. Sensors and data loggers are going to play a key role, creating usable data to be studied. More solutions will be needed to meet technological demands for both the customer and the producer.