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The Road to Smart Manufacturing



By David Rauch, Territory Business Lead, Rockwell Automation


When you leave the house for the day, you are apt to keep watch on your furry friends with a camera. Why not do the same with your plant floor? 


From one application, you can check exterior cameras, temperature and make sure your dog is behaving from anywhere with a Wi-Fi signal. Imagine if we take that technology and apply it to monitoring your equipment, allowing you to predict downtime and avoid potential machine malfunctions. 


The IoT will grow to $40 billion in the next year, driven mostly by the consumer industry. We have the ability to adapt and apply the same technology in the industrial field, so why are we so behind the curve? OEM’s that quickly adapt to smart machine technology will be the most efficient and reliable in their market. Quick adapters will be established as the technology leader in their market. 


In lieu of a smart machine, you may have a large headcount dedicated specifically to monitoring and maintaining equipment. If you rely on human intervention to keep machines functioning optimally, you must also be ready to deal with human fallacies such as missing data, boredom, lack of concentration, and inadequate understanding of equipment functionality and design. Breaking free of the outdated philosophy that there must be human intervention to operate equipment will lead you down the path to the ultimate goal of a self-sufficient machine that monitors itself. 




It appears it would be a simple choice and a simple conversion to migrate to smart machinery, but there are some hesitations for businesses as they consider the advanced technology: 

  • Upfront equipment cost 

  • More capable equipment can win market share if there is a value add. 

  • More expensive hardware could lead to less cost in manpower. 

  • Cost of capital 

  • Project effectiveness goes beyond simple ROI to obtaining market share, reducing overhead, creating additional revenue streams, and brand notoriety. 

  • Complacency 

  • Employees are often comfortable with the way things have always been done. 

  • There often must be a champion with a vision for how technology can positively impact the business. 




In a world where technology is constantly developing, it is important to get ahead of the curve. Early adoption of smart manufacturing technology has a long list of benefits: 

  • Safety integration 

  • Safe speed 

  • Safe position 

  • Safe direction 

  • Remote connection to OEM equipment 

  • New Revenue Stream 

  • System tuning 

  • PM work 

  • System updates 

  • Equipment efficiency adjustments & trending for future development 

  • Outage prediction 

  • Customized report data 

  • Brand recognition 

  • Establishing your business as ahead of the curve 

  • Providing customers with the most advanced technology 

  • Becoming a technology leader in your industry 


Now let’s take a look at how a mid-western OEM for the power industry had the vision to create a smart system that would dramatically change how they were viewed by their customers. Dramatically change the gold standard of the power industry. Their new system allowed them to shorten their time to market with made-to-order vs. stock machines. They increased productivity with shorter setup and change over time, improved quality, and reduced downtime and energy consumption. They were also able to reduce inventory and waste while improving planning and forecasting. All of this together to produce a reduction in human errors and risk of a product recall and automated digital monitoring ensures accurate records. 


This was a system that took them years to develop and implement, but they had to start somewhere. CBT, in conjunction with Rockwell Automation, has the tools and knowledge to get you on the path to using smart machines. 



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