How Smart Manufact​​uring Can Embrace Sustainability and Become Future Ready​​

​by Sasha Ilyuk​hin 

Smart manufacturing offers new production advantages that come from the flexibility and easy output made possible with digital technology. However, not every brand is taking advantage of increased efficiency to become future ready.

When the Industrial Revolution brought forth the ability to design and operate large manufacturing facilities with planned labor and spatial organization, factories were able to make products more quickly. The production variety increased and costs dropped. But on the way to faster, cheaper production, the factories themselves have become very inefficient.

Because many manufacturers today operate with outdated technologies, efficiency has taken a back seat. It's not uncommon to see plant utilization rates hover around 30%, meaning facilities are routinely sitting idle 70% of the time.

Many manufacturers have had to operate by choosing one goal: greater productivity (to make the same product cheaper and faster) or greater flexibility (to make a bigger variety of products). With smart manufacturing, both goals are  possible at the same time.

Here are three ways food and beverage brands can leverage smart manufacturing to make their businesses future ready.

No. 1: Em​brace the Data Revolution

Most often, when a factory sits idle, it's because teams are waiting for either raw materials or production plan. When these plants were designed, Big Data wasn't available. Intelligent packaging didn't exist. Plus, if the data was available, the plant didn't have the technological capabilities to actually use the information.

The greatest change in manufacturing has been the incredible increase in data and its utility. The productivity potential that Big Data brings is tremendous.

Now that the data is available in droves and can be processed more easily, efficiencies are multiplied. Market demand data can be harvested and instantaneously available. A brand has visibility into what products are selling, where they're selling, and how much they're selling for. This intelligence empowers brands to make adjustments in production in almost real-time.

No 2: Use Technolo​gy to Increase Sustainable Practices

Not only has technology become more sophisticated, it's become cheaper and more accessible.

The technology used for smart manufacturing, specifically sensors, can break down silos by linking systems together. Now manufacturers can enable communication between warehouse databases, enterprise resource planning systems, and manufacturing execution systems. The efficiency and production capabilities that technology provides today are only the beginning.

A traditional plant will produce according to a schedule, even if that means overproduction, which often ends up as waste. The same thing happens if raw materials aren't used before expiration: the abundance is also waste. Smart manufacturing enables better resource planning to avoid overproduction or underutilization. This translates into greater cost efficiency and sustainability.

My team has recently completed a project where we helped our customer increase their plant's throughput, so that they were able to produce more products in 5 days vs what they used ot produce in 7 days. The solution involved a combination of Total Productive Maintenance techniques and several digital enablers, which enabled receiving the right information at the right time. By leveraging technology and proven improvement methods, the factory increased productivity by more than 25%.

No. 3: Unlock Your People's Potential

Although machines and computers make manufacturing possible, every business is a people business. Job duties may be shifting, but human creativity and imagination are the drivers for innovation.

It's true that smart manufacturing has made some jobs obsolete. In the same way we don't need typists anymore, smart manufacturing has opened the door to robotics and automation. But if a robot can do your job, why would you want it?

Jobs become more interesting and relevant because human beings unlock the potential within a particular role and evolve its duties and capabilities. With smart manufacturing, people will do what people do best: use imagination, creativity, analysis, communication, and teamwork to innovate.

Smart manufacturing is made possible because of better data, more accessible technology, and human creativity. These changes have led to economic growth, increased productivity while reducing waste and improving sustainability.

Smart manufacturing is scalable, agile, and designed to align with your mission for growth — the right formula to evolve a business to a future-ready state.

For more information about smart manufacturing, download "Industry 4.0: The Future Is Now."