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What is a smart factory? What does it look like? How will it benefit your manufacturing business? And what type of support is on offer to help you build one?

You’ll be able to understand how integrating digital technologies into your business can give it a competitive edge, and what’s required to implement them successfully.

Made Smarter’s support enables makers to create a connected environment and successfully progress along their digital journey. By turning their factories smart, manufacturing businesses – and the industry as a whole – can become more advanced and help the UK reach its ambition of being a global technology leader.

Why not reap the rewards of industrial digitalisation – from streamlined processes and job creation to accelerated growth.

Make your processes smarter
Smart Factory explained
  • What is a smart factory?

    The ultimate aim of a smart factory is to become completely independent – that is, able to use the right data to pinpoint and fix any malfunctions or streamline processes, without the need to pause production.

    This connected environment enables the improvement of processes through automation and self-optimisation. Procedures can be sensed, monitored, controlled and communicated, resulting in opportunities for businesses that yield numerous benefits – such as improved efficiency and increased output and consistency.

    These factories are part of Industry 4.0.

  • What are the benefits of a smart factory?

    There are many advantages to these types of factories, including:

    • Asset efficiency - As smart factories produce high amounts of data, you can effectively review and then optimise asset performance. There is no need for any human involvement either; predictive analytics and machine learning implement the corrective measures. This results not only in asset efficiency, but reduced downtime and changeover as well as enhanced capacity.

    • Reduced costs - Costs can be saved in many different ways – for instance, manufacturing facilities can work with a decreased amount of inventory, reducing the need to source materials and rely on supply networks. Material handling costs are significantly reduced too, as well as the amount of waste produced and energy consumed. What’s more, thanks to predictive maintenance, your business can experience fewer periods of downtime.

    • Quality enhancements - Quality processes can additionally be enhanced, minimising how much money is spent on maintenance. The analysis involved in smart manufacturing can be used to effectively predict and detect quality defects. As a result, there will be quality improvements, fewer defects, and lead times will improve.

    • Better flexibility - The logistics systems of smart factories can handle a variety of operational tasks, providing businesses with the greatest flexibility possible. Sensor technology can instantly identify any changes in demand, allowing makers to be more agile in their reactions.

    • Improved decision-making - As smart technology allows for more streamlined and automated data processing, this in turn leads to better analysis and more informed (and quicker) decisions. Manufacturers are able to connect their technologies with business systems too, so that they can effectively assess their KPIs against their business objectives.
  • Are smart factories replacing human workers?

    We believe that robots will never replace humans. While smart factory automation means that projects can be completed with fewer workers, these employees can be upskilled to more rewarding roles or work of a higher value. Therefore, they aren’t replaced – they’re used better, it's all about the people not the tools.

    No longer will your teams have to complete manual, mundane work that is prone to human error. Technology can do the low-value jobs right, and humans can be successfully placed elsewhere in order to further grow the business.

  • What does a smart factory look like?

    Different businesses incorporate different aspects of the smart factory. Some ideas you may take inspiration from include:

    • Integration of live production data with predictive inventory and purchase management systems. This will allow supply to align better with production.
    • Machine learning to automatically analyse data, so as to boost efficiency and enable software to implement process improvements.
    • Robotics solutions to deal with repetitive tasks without the need for human involvement.
  • How can Made Smarter support your business?

    The Made Smarter programme can help you implement a smart factory and any other aspects of Industry 4.0 that will benefit your business. It was formed so that SMEs in the UK manufacturing industry would have the support necessary to tackle the main challenges of introducing these technologies. This is achieved through stronger leadership, rapid adoption and better innovation.

    Our support* includes the following:

    • Business growth advice – This is tailored to your SME, helping you to pinpoint the tools that will work for your particular processes.
    • Project funding – You’ll be able to discover the financial options that you can access, and receive support with applications for those you’re eligible for.
    • Digital strategy workshops – These workshops will enable you to determine your long-term strategy, and the role that technology will play within it.
    • Leadership programme – The Made Smarter leadership programme will give you the confidence and capability to ensure your whole team embraces emerging technologies.
    • Digital technology internships – A digital native can help you as you create your digital roadmap and ensure your business transformation goes successfully.

    *It’s important to note that this support is only currently offered as part of our North West Pilot. It’s anticipated that we will be able to bring accelerator programmes to other regions across the UK in the future. To find out what support is available in your area contact your local growth hub.

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