The article was written with Harri Nieminen, Head of Innovation Development & Research at Fastems Oy
The objectives of factory automation have not changed remarkably, but they are aimed to be fulfilled through more and more advanced solutions which bring along new opportunities and benefits. Factory automation has taken yet another new step when intelligent manufacturing management has become the center of automation solutions.
– Simply said, the manufacturing industry invests in automation to better live with the ever-increasing complexity of manufacturing, and to produce a broader scale of products keeping in focus requirements of sustainable development. This way the manufacturing is realized in a more cost-effective, higher-quality and agile way, says Harri Nieminen, Head of Innovation Development & Research at Fastems.
The background of the objectives mentioned above is that we, the end-consumers of the manufacturing industry, expect better service quality than before. We demand more personalized, affordable, higher-quality, and environment-friendly products faster than before.
Manufacturing intelligence to automation systems and around them
The traditional way of thinking is that only high-volume manufacturing is worthy of an automation investment. However, Nieminen says that thanks to modern automation solutions and intelligent manufacturing management, automating the low-volume manufacturing is also profitable. Even when it concerns the cost-effective manufacturing of lot size one.
– Nowadays, intelligent manufacturing management has a centric role when talking about manufacturing automation. For example, the most visible part of a Fastems delivery is the physical automation system. However, we cannot highlight enough the significance of the manufacturing management when measuring the benefits of an investment.
Nieminen continues that Fastems’ intelligent manufacturing management is an element that can navigate the manufacturing’s automated and unautomated robot cells and machine tools outside the automation systems.
– Manufacturing is a cohesive scheme. The modern manufacturing environment is like a seamless team play which is built through integrated machine tools, other devices, and information systems. The intelligent manufacturing management works as a bridge through the single information systems tying all the resources and manufacturing information together. The integration of manufacturing data contributes to decision-making based on real-time data and transparency between the office and factory floor.
Data utilization through value
As the digitalization of the manufacturing industry progresses further, the amount of generated data keeps growing. However, the amount does not replace the quality or the target in this case either.
– The data is a crucial enabler for value creation, but it should not be collected only because we have technical access to the vast amount of the data. The customer value should always be in the center even if the opportunities created by the data are not clear. The future’s data-intensive services are not just helping the manufacturing industry’s actors to maintain the capacity, but also increase it immensely without notable additional investments, says Nieminen.
Nieminen reminds that the manufacturing is always realized in a network which in some cases may be quite broad. Through the digitalization of manufacturing and with the right way of building and utilizing the data, it is possible to create in the future a better situational awareness and transparency over the whole manufacturing network. That also enables exclusively new services around the manufactured product.
The co-developing of ecosystems becomes stronger
In the future, the significance of co-creation within ecosystems will be stronger. Nieminen says that no single actor can develop digital network-level solutions alone, as the work should be done together with customers and ecosystem partners.
Fastems is part of ecosystems which concentrate on executing practical developing through co-creation. Nieminen mentions as examples Intelligent Industry and MEX Finland, which both ecosystems include stakeholders from the manufacturing industry and solution providers.
The article was originally published in TeollisuusSuomi in Finnish (September 2019 issue).