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Factory of Future: An 'A-C-T-I-O-N' Oriented Approach

Manufacturing sector is about to change and change for better. This industry has seen three Industrial Revolutions (IR) and next is just around the corner. Some call it Industry 4.0 or 4th Industrial Revolution while some simply summarize it as digital revolution. While most of today's factories have adopted computers and automation in some form, there is still significant manual intervention required resulting in lower productivity and reduced efficiencies.

Despite automation, there is no real-time view into health of assembly line or inventory condition. Some examples are:

  • The maintenance of machines is still done on the basis of age-old standard servicing calendar. This approach forgoes predictive maintenance that sometimes leads to costly production halt.
  • The factory is fitted with multiple cameras but, the video feeds are still monitored manually which many a times is ineffective to prevent any accident or to avoid non-compliance.
  • While the physical supply chains work across organization boundaries, the digital fragmentation results in costly duplicate data entries, reconciliation issues and subsequent delays.

Research in computing, both on software and hardware fronts, has led to some promising technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Cognitive Bots, Mixed Reality and Internet-of-Things. Factories of the future can leverage these next-gen technologies to make them Automated, Connected, Transparent, Intelligent, Omni-Channel and Nimble (A-C-T-I-O-N).   

Automated: The next-gen robots, often called as Cognitive Bots, are capable to handle multiple scenarios and would aid in higher level of automation. For example, an incident tracking 'ticketBot' can automatically classify incidents based on text or image and also take appropriate action to close the ticket.

Connected: Machines and Assembly Line act like nervous system of the factory. Keeping it running and in good health is of paramount importance to any manufacturer. The IoT sensors embedded in machines and assembly line provide real-time status of the factory line helping take appropriate actions and prevent any unforeseen breakdown.

Transparent: Manufacturers have wide and deep supplier and distributer network but, they lack end-to-end visibility into the supply chain. A Blockchain like network can bring multiple supply chain participants on a single network providing complete product and parts traceability, thereby enabling faster procure-to-pay cycle. Smart Contracts can help increase automation level by codifying business clauses between supply chain partners on Blockchain and reducing manual intervention and costly errors.

Intelligent: Artificial Intelligence can process IoT and other sources of data for various business scenarios such as predictive maintenance of machines and assembly line. AI-OCR techniques can process hand written documents automatically. AI-Computer Vision can process camera feeds in real- time to detect anomalies such as a worker not wearing safety gear or unusual cracks on metal structures within factory.

Omni-channel: The devices that staff and workers use can vary from traditional desktops and phones to smart watch and smart phones. Omni-channel strategy will make data accessible anytime, anywhere from any device. For example, the training that new worker underwent using desktop can be re-attended or continued using a smart phone or AR/VR devices.

Nimble: In this era of fierce global competition where only the fittest survive, enterprises need to adopt an agile approach. All the benefits of being connected, intelligent and transparent would be lost, if organizations are not nimble to take actions.

Infosys Intelligent Apps Platform (iIAP) can help manufacturers create factory of the future in an A-C-T-I-O-N oriented approach. iIAP has a generic IoT framework which has easy device configuration, IoT gateway and rule chain like features for complex event processing. The AI and Big Data Analytics framework helps in getting real-time insights and automates bots to take appropriate actions. The Blockchain framework provides services for inter-org data sharing over various open source distributed ledger platforms. iIAP can be deployed either on open internet cloud or on-premise as per individual manufacturer requirement.

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