The advent of smart manufacturing technologies has created a substantial impact on automotive manufacturing. For starters, smart manufacturing employs automation, the Internet of Things (IoT), digitised processes and sustainable practices. The resulting factors of having a smart manufacturing set-up are efficiency, production optimisation, trackability, quick turnaround during downtime, safer working conditions, and responsible manufacturing.
Several advanced technologies enable the concept of smart manufacturing on a shopfloor, and these are:
Smart Manufacturing Governed By IoT, Cloud Computing, AI, ML
IoT is at the heart of smart manufacturing and serves as the backbone for connecting various devices, sensors and machines in an automotive production environment. IoT devices collect and exchange data, monitoring and controlling processes in real-time. This connectivity promotes seamless communication between machines, allowing them to collaborate and work efficiently. Manufacturers can gather vast amounts of data from sensors embedded in machinery, production lines, and products. This data can be further analysed to gain valuable insights into production performance, detect anomalies, and predict maintenance requirements. By using IoT, manufacturers can optimise processes, reduce downtime, minimise waste, and enhance the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). IoT devices are also used to track inventory levels, asset comparison and make more informed decisions in mass production.
Cloud-based platforms provide the necessary infrastructure to process big data and run advanced analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms. It serves as the backbone of smart manufacturing, providing a scalable and secure platform to store, process, and analyse the vast amount of data IoT devices generate. Manufacturers can utilise cloud-based services to manage their data effectively and access powerful computing resources without the need for extensive on-site infrastructure.
One of the most important advantages of using a cloud service in smart manufacturing is its ability to facilitate collaboration and information. Various stakeholders such as manufacturers, suppliers and customers can access information and insights in real-time, which drives more informed decisions throughout the supply chain. In addition, the cloud ensures data availability from anywhere, thus enabling remote monitoring and control of production processes, which is particularly valuable in globalised manufacturing setups.
AI & Machine Learning
AI and Machine Learning (ML) are critical components of smart manufacturing. AI systems can analyse vast data sets and historical records of IoT devices to identify patterns, trends and correlations that may not be obvious to human users. ML algorithms can learn from data, make predictions, and make suggestions to improve manufacturing processes. Predictive maintenance is a key application of AI in smart manufacturing. By analysing data from machine sensors, AI can identify early signs of potential breakdowns, allowing manufacturers to proactively schedule maintenance. This approach reduces downtime, minimises repair costs and extends the life of the machines. In addition, quality control systems powered by AI can inspect and detect defects in real-time during the production process. Defective products can be removed, reducing waste and improving overall product quality. AI also facilitates demand forecasting, allowing manufacturers to optimise inventory levels and production schedules. By analysing historical sales data, market trends and other factors, AI can create accurate forecasts and ensure manufacturers meet customer demands and avoid excess inventory.
ML also plays a key role in optimising manufacturing processes. It can be used to automatically fine-tune production parameters, improving efficiency and reducing resource consumption.
The future of smart manufacturing in the automotive industry looks promising. Technological advancements such as 5G, AI, and robotics will further enhance automation, connectivity, and data analytics. This will lead to even more efficient, sustainable, and intelligent manufacturing processes.
In the coming years, we can expect to see increased collaboration between automotive manufacturers and technology companies, fostering innovation and driving the adoption of smart manufacturing. Furthermore, the rise of electric vehicles and autonomous driving will significantly influence the manufacturing landscape, necessitating the integration of smart manufacturing techniques to meet the demands of these evolving technologies.
Connected, smart manufacturing technologies using IoT, cloud computing and AI/ML are driving the future of automotive manufacturing. Cloud computing provides the necessary infrastructure to process massive amounts of data and enables collaboration across the supply chain. Together, these technologies are transforming traditional manufacturing into highly efficient, cost-effective, and flexible smart manufacturing systems.
The connectivity of operational equipment in the factory or field that enables more efficient manufacturing processes exposes new entry paths for malicious attacks and malware. Therefore, cybersecurity is equally important in a smart manufacturing setup. The automotive industry requires a proactive and multi-faceted approach to address cybersecurity concerns. The industry is currently trying to safeguard automotive systems, memory, communication, and supporting infrastructure. Therefore, employing online trust centres to secure cryptographic keys is important, while penetration test labs play a vital role in regularly identifying vulnerabilities and threats to ensure vehicle safety. Cybersecurity can be tackled in three broad steps: Preventing, Understanding and Responding.
Industry 4.0 enables conventional factories to turn into smart factories by deploying modern technologies such as connected ecosystems, collaborative robots, automated transport robots, big data, remote monitoring, and automating redundant processes to increase human efficiency. As a technology company, Continental believes that smart machines are not an option but a necessity in a highly demanding industry like automotive – efficiency, productivity, traceability, quality control, and cost optimisation are defined as the value to customers. As we embrace this new manufacturing era, the manufacturing industry will continue to evolve while driving innovation.
Anudeep Garg is the Head of the Gurgaon Plant of Continental Automotive India. Views expressed are personal.