Industry 4.0: The Smart Factory

As the UK moves forward with plans to embrace the fourth industrial revolution, it’s no longer enough for manufacturers and engineers to simply think in a smart way, you must be looking at what infrastructure you have in place and working towards creating a smarter environment.
From the integration of new production technologies geared towards improving work conditions, to increasing productivity and enhancing the production of quality plants, Industry 4.0 and the smart factory really is the future. And it’s no wonder, especially when it can significantly improve a business’s bottom line. Recent research by Barclays ‘Intelligent manufacturing: an industrial revolution for the digital age’ suggests that capitalising on the ‘digitalisation’ movement could, by 2026, add £102bn per annum in additional revenues for UK manufacturers and increase GVA by £31.6bn per annum.
Defining the smart factory
Essentially, a smart factory is one that connects the digital and physical worlds. It represents the evolution from a traditional automated production line and supply chain, to a fully connected and flexible system that uses the likes of the Internet of Things, sensors and automated systems to learn and develop with a company.
The smart factory creates a flexible environment where a constant stream of data from connected operations and production systems is collected and deployed to adapt to new demands. And the concept isn’t just confined to the four walls of a factory, it goes much further –influencing the entire supply chain and beyond.
Benefits vs challenges
As highlighted above, the main business benefit of the smart factory is a more efficient, agile and transparent way of working, which leads to greater bottom line efficiencies.
On a practical level, the smart factory enables more informed decisions, which leads to less production downtime and enables greater predictive capabilities, allowing organisations to adjust to changes quickly and easily. What’s more, the smart factory offers significant sustainability benefits as it typically has a smaller environmental footprint than conventional manufacturing processes.
However, as is always the case when deploying new technologies, this next chapter in manufacturing won’t come without its challenges, one of which is the additional pressure it will put on the UK power supply. This, in turn, poses a risk to the sustained uptake and growth of Industry 4.0 and so it’s a factor that must be considered.
Smart protection
Protecting your smart factory environment against power outages calls for a robust and reliable power protection solution.
At a large-scale manufacturing plant, downtime caused by a power shutdown or breakdown in the supply of monitoring/control information can have a disastrous effect on productivity which ultimately impacts the bottom line. Therefore, mission-critical processes should be fully protected to ensure productivity remains at its optimum, while any risks and cost implications around machinery failure are reduced.
And that’s where the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) comes in. Designed to guarantee a reliable, continuous and high-quality power supply to systems that control and manage industrial production processes, the UPS acts as an interface between the grid and the load in case of power grid anomalies, spikes, interruptions and even annoying blackouts. The UPS is an integral part of the infrastructure required to ensure power continuity and maximum digital interconnectivity in the smart factory.
Maximising Industry 4.0
As we start to see increasing adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, it is wise for those working in the industrial sector to take a step back and make sure their processes and equipment is as protected as it can be.
Manufacturers can do this by having a solid power protection solution in place in the form of a UPS device. This will not only offer peace of mind if machinery does fail, but it will also provide added reassurance that instances of downtime will be reduced, paving the way for a stronger manufacturing future that’s good for business.
Author profile:
Leo Craig is general manager at Riello UPS

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