Enabling Smart Factories with Smart and Connected Operations

Jan 13, 2023
Manufacturing | 4 min READ
The future of Manufacturing resides in “Smart Factories”
The metamorphosis of the manufacturing industry is underway. The future lies in associated and interrelated components of technology, systems and machines brought together to drive flexibility, efficiencies, and agility. Moreover, it is needless to mention the cost-efficacy of this convergence of machines and processes in powering the “Smart Factories”.
Shamdutt Kamble
Shamdutt Kamble

Global Practice Director

Digital Manufacturing


Rishu Sharma
Rishu Sharma

Practice Director

Digital Evangelist and Storyteller, Digital BU


Enabling these factories of tomorrow warrants leveraging modern technologies like IIoT, AI, ML, and cloud for a self-altering manufacturing unit to harness the value of the enterprise data. Connected operations, thus, are pivotal for driving actionable insights and enhancing overall business operations.
The questions on “top of the mind” for businesses
While connected operations are the backbone of the factories of tomorrow, some critical thoughts often inhibit enterprises. Conversations with varied manufacturing organizations reveal the key asks on their mind, including:
  • How do we drive efficiency and operational improvement in the Factories of Tomorrow?
  • How do we envision the interplay of IoT and Operations to improve plant performance, supply chain orchestration, product performance and delivery?
  • Which key technologies should we keep in mind? Where do we begin?
  • How should we measure the success of our initiatives for smart factories?
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How do we drive efficiency and operational improvement in the Factories of Tomorrow?
Globally, manufacturers have a core focus area of turning data into insights. This involves bringing together business and manufacturing data by integrating disparate systems. Enterprises must have a combined view of their data landscape across the ecosystem to gain visibility in processes, people, and the supply chain. Therefore, the need of the hour is to consolidate operation technology (OT) and information technology (IT) by imbibing digital technologies throughout the value chain. Considering the areas like supply chain, product development, operations, supply chain and aftersales, some use cases where connected operations play a crucial role - including real-time asset monitoring, tracking the movement of inventory, real-time visibility in data, and inventory management, amongst others.
Which are the key technologies that we should keep in mind?
Another crucial thought that leaders deal with is the technologies that should be leveraged. Connecting people, processes and the supply chain entails powering digital technologies that promote the future factories of tomorrow. For instance, IoT can be leveraged for production, quality checks, logistics, etc., whereas AI/ML can improve efficiencies and throughput and reduce energy consumption. Predictive & prescriptive analytics, intelligent automation for automating processes, and AR-based solutions can be used to improve customer engagement and field service.
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How do we envision the interplay of IoT and Operations to improve plant performance, supply chain orchestration, product performance and delivery?
IoT helps to improvise operations and efficiencies. Process enhancements with smart connected products involve leveraging IoT across predictive/proactive monitoring, real-time reporting/visibility, quality checks and management as well as personalization and driving additional opportunities.
Tomorrow’s factories demand that no asset/process should be in silos. Instead, they should exist in a connected world of people, processes, systems and products, offering enhanced benefits in efficiencies and performance. Manufacturers must ready themselves for tomorrow in areas like production or asset optimization, preventative and predictive maintenance, energy management and workforce safety - all using IoT to improve plant performance via Smart Manufacturing. Enhance the Supply chain with IoT-enabled Asset/Inventory management and Logistics – inbound and outbound lead to improve visibility, tracking and resiliency. IoT-powered Connected Products to enable remote operations, preventative maintenance, product-enabled service, and efficient content/consumables delivery.
Where do we begin? 
While the key ask for the manufacturers is to have an integrated view of people, processes and assets. Factories of tomorrow direct leaders to answer some of the critical questions on this journey. These include:
  • What is the core business challenge that needs to be addressed?
  • How will the success of the initiative be measured? What are the business outcomes that will drive the efforts?
  • Are we aligned with the enterprise vision? Do we have collaboration and participation from the folks in OT and IT?
  • Do we have experts with the right skill set to understand business and IT requirements?
Manufacturers must follow business strategies that help integrating IT and OT while establishing the roadmap and architecture needed to cover the gaps on the way to building intelligent factories.
How can Smart Connected operations transform enterprises in order to achieve the objectives that they set out for?
A suitable example of how enterprises are achieving their business objectives through connected operations is that of a leading Indian manufacturer of motorcycles and 3-wheelers. The company was looking for a way to deploy new technology to ensure consistency in the quality of the surface treatment processes for the parts received from their suppliers and in-house units.
They hoped to avoid recalls, failures, and customer dissatisfaction from defective parts. The client partnered with Birlasoft on a solution based on their IP, industry knowledge and ability to manage ecosystems.
Birlasoft built a solution on an IoT platform for real-time remote monitoring and control of the critical parameters of the processes at various locations and alerted users to issues.
The Solution:
Ran off-edge computing and SCADA systems, used Kepware software for industrial connectivity, covered QA for 23 processes at 2 in-house plants and 12 supplier locations and is planned to be expanded to over 85 operations across 50 locations.
The Outcome:
The solution significantly improved the consistency of the quality and ensured better customer satisfaction. The solution has helped the customer achieve a 25% reduction in rejection and a more than 10% reduction in scrap and reworking.
This work was an excellent example of using new age technology to bring new capabilities to an industrial setting.
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