Smart manufacturing is not a thing; it’s a convergence of things

Smart manufacturing is a convergence of capabilities from multiple areas to enhance productivity. Smart manufacturing is where smart business processes converge with smart operational processes, smart equipment, and smart product definitions.

By Dennis Brandl May 8, 2016

Smart manufacturing is growing in popularity, although it can still be a confusing concept. To some people smart manufacturing is applying the technology of smartphones, smart houses, and smart cars to manufacturing equipment. For others, it is applying information technologies in supply chains and product development or the development of smart products. There are many definitions of smart manufacturing because it is not just a single thing, but a convergence of capabilities from multiple areas. This convergence has the potential to bring massive productivity enhancements as traditional manufacturing moves to smart manufacturing.

Manufacturing is at the center of many different business lifecycles. There are business lifecycles for the product development, process equipment (assets), order management, supply chain management, and security management. Each of these activity lifecycles has an element of production or operation. 

Supply chain management lifecycle

There are multiple definitions for the supply chain lifecycle, but a commonly used definition is the Supply Chain Council (SCOR) model. In the SCOR model, the center activity is "make," which is the process that transforms products to a finished state to meet planned or actual demand. SCOR does not attempt to describe every business process or activity, just those involved in obtaining raw materials, converting them into finished products, delivering them to the customer, and tracking all of the raw and final materials (see Figure 1).

The idea of a smart supply chain is not new; it has been discussed since 2010. A smart supply chain has pervasive data collection to provide real-time quantity and location inventory information down to the case or individual product level. A smart supply chain provides:

  • Connections to planning
  • Supplier partners
  • Delivery partners 
  • Final customers
  • Service centers
  • Production floor
  • Improved supply chain decision-making through advanced analytics and planning optimization.

The "make" activity is in the center of a smart supply chain, connecting operations information (production, quality, inventory, and maintenance) to the enterprise. One part of smart manufacturing is integration with smart supply chains, providing real-time information for raw material, and final product tracking and tracing. Smart manufacturing also provides product serialization information for regulated industries.

Asset lifecycle management

Asset lifecycle management defines the activities associated with acquiring production equipment, operating the equipment, and decommissioning the equipment. There are multiple asset lifecycle management models, but they all follow the general structure of:

  1. Starting with planning the purchase or development of the production asset
  2. Acquiring or developing the asset (including the control programming required) 
  3. Installing the asset
  4. Operating and maintaining the asset
  5. Finally decommissioning and disposing of the asset (see Figure 2).

Smart asset management involves two elements: the development or acquisition of smart manufacturing equipment, and the integration of smart equipment information into the asset management lifecycle. Smart manufacturing equipment is equipment that can be easily reconfigured through software to manage different products. Examples include recipe controlled processes, reconfigurable palletizing and cartooning equipment, general purpose assembly robots, and other devices that are not specifically designed for one product. Business owners are demanding more flexibility in their production facilities, and the implementation of reconfigurable software equipment is addressing that need.

Smart production equipment is connected to the enterprise asset management and maintenance management systems, providing real-time visibility into the state and status of the maintenance and operating assets of the company. Smart manufacturing involves integration with smart production equipment, providing for software reconfiguration of equipment, and connectivity into other corporate systems. 

Product lifecycle management

Product lifecycle management (PLM) involves the process of managing all of the information about a product, including the concept and design, production, and disposal. PLM has been used to improve product development, production, and maintenance for the past 25 years, and the latest adaptation is smart product lifecycle management, with an emphasis on smart products (see Figure 3).

Smart products are products that are designed for quick customization at the late stages of production to allow for the detection of problems, online or intrinsic access to service information, and integration with service and support systems. Product customization at the late stages of production provides for better scheduling flexibility and the ability to quickly respond to customer demands. This is commonly addressed in the process industries through the use of ANSI/ISA-88 recipes and batch management. In the discrete, continuous, and hybrid manufacturing industries it is commonly accomplished through reconfigurable software production equipment, with parameters and instructions downloaded to smart assets in real-time as the production orders are executed. Examples of late-stage production customization are user options, colors, packaging materials, final product container size and shape, and product grades.

Order-to-cash lifecycle management

The order-to-cash (OTC) lifecycle starts with customer orders, scheduling the production of the product, shipping the product, invoicing the customer, and ends with receiving the customer’s payment. OTC processes touch multiple key business performance areas: sales order management, order fulfillment, billing, credit management, and cash collection (see Figure 4).

Order management has traditionally been handled through an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, with links to supplier systems, production systems, shipping systems, and invoicing systems. In the middle of the OTC lifecycle is the "make" activity.

Smart OTC lifecycle management involves collecting all information about orders and customers, from initial entry to final payment, such that the scheduling, making, shipping, and invoicing provide tracking and tracing information throughout the entire order lifecycle. In the "make" section of the lifecycle, this involves retaining information about target production and reports on actual production. 

Industrial automation control systems (IACS) security management

With the advent of smart devices, connected enterprises, and increased automation, there is an additional lifecycle for IACS security management. Security for IACS starts with:

  1. Planning
  2. The deployment of security measures
  3. Verification and operation of the security measures
  4. Detection of intrusions and vulnerabilities
  5. Assessment of the intrusion or vulnerabilities, and
  6. Final audits and updates to restart the process.

Like many of the other lifecycles in an enterprise, the security lifecycle is a continual process, responding to new equipment, new software, and new threats (see Figure 5).

Smart IACS security management involves the security of manufacturing assets that have cyber components. As smart manufacturing assets proliferate, these devices need to be routinely updated with both security and functionality patches. Managing a large number of smart devices in a manufacturing environment can only be handled through smart security management practices and smart device security systems. 

Smart manufacturing

All of the above lifecycles are relatively independent sets of activities, which all converge on the "make", "operate", and "maintain" activities of smart manufacturing. Smart manufacturing is the convergence of:

Smart supply chain management. This is where materials are tracked throughout the entire supply chain including production. Smart manufacturing involves collecting and maintaining the information needed to track all raw materials, all finished goods, equipment used, and personnel used in the "make" activities. This identification information is needed for supply chain optimization and to handle problems associated with returns and recalls. Supply chain optimization means that product starts are coordinated with material deliveries, and production completions are coordinated with material shipments.

A smart manufacturing system provides complete track and trace information for all manufacturing resources through every step of movement, testing, production, and produces information to the corporate or extended supply chain. 

Smart asset management. This is where manufacturing assets (production, quality, and inventory movement and storage equipment) are designed to provide late stage customization and software enabled reconfiguration of capabilities. This includes the ability to make different products using the same production equipment. Elements of this capability are evident in:

  • Third-generation packaging and filling lines, which are collections of software-coupled equipment that can be quickly reconfigured.
  • The use of industrial assembly, pick and place, and palletizing robots that can be reconfigured online to handle product changes without stopping the production lines.
  • Process industries, where recipes are used to control manufacturing equipment to make different products using the same production lines.

A smart manufacturing system is made up of smart manufacturing assets, which can be software reconfigured and recipe/workflow controlled. In a smart manufacturing environment the equipment is not dedicated to single products, much like the recipe/equipment integration defined in the ISA 88 standard, to provide production flexibility. 

Smart product lifecycle management. This is where definitions of how to make the product are not tied directly to specific production equipment. Smart product lifecycle management provides the ability to quickly move production to different facilities that may have different equipment layouts and capabilities. This requires a separation of the definition of what needs to be done and in what order to make a product, from how specific equipment is used.

A smart manufacturing system provides the capability to convert definitions of the physics, chemistry, biology, and material manipulation, into the specific instructions needed to operate the production equipment. A smart manufacturing system will use recipes or workflows to coordinate and control the movement of materials through production stages, allowing for rapid product changes, flexible manufacturing schedules, and late stage customization. 

Smart order-to-cash management (OTC). This is where all quantitative information about the resources used in manufacturing are identified and assigned business value. This includes asset utilization information, activity-based costing information, direct and indirect cost information, and perfect order metrics.

Smart OTC management allows the company to determine the profitability of individual products and facilities and to focus corporate resources appropriately. 

A smart manufacturing system collects, maintains, and makes available the quantitative information on manufacturing resources associated with specific production orders needed to perform smart OTC management. This involves providing real-time or near real-time information as materials are consumed, materials produced, and assets used. 

Smart IACS security management. This is where individual production assets have built-in security, controlled network access, application right management, and patches management.

A smart manufacturing system has secure devices and networks that can be easily and reliably patched and updated as new threats emerge. The smart devices can automatically download approved patches, apply them into an off-line (virtual machine) environment, test their operation to ensure they don’t break anything, and then when approved, apply them to the production environment. A smart manufacturing system has the capability to manage tens of thousands of smart upgradeable devices, with minimal manual intervention (see Figure 6).

Smart manufacturing is a convergence of capabilities needed to support:

  • Smart OTC management through information integration with ERP and systems
  • Smart PLM by integration with product manufacturing instructions and the ability to rapidly and automatically adapt to product changes
  • Smart supply chain management through information integration with supply chain management systems
  • Smart asset management using equipment that can be rapidly and automatically changed to handle new products and late-stage customization
  • Smart security management using smart assets that can automatically and safely maintain a secure status.

Smart manufacturing combines all of the above capabilities to provide a flexible and adaptive manufacturing environment that includes all operational activities related to production, quality, physical inventory management, and maintenance.

Dennis Brandl is president of BR&L Consulting. Edited by Emily Guenther, associate content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,


Key concepts

  • Smart manufacturing is a convergence of many business processes.
  • Traditional manufacturing is transitioning to smart manufacturing.
  • Smart manufacturing improves efficiencies and minimizes downtime.
  • Smart manufacturing is a trend that benefits the industry.

Consider this

What would it mean for the industry if all facilities adopt smart manufacturing?

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