It is no secret that digitalization has become an integral part of every industry. And thus, the manufacturing industry is no different. Digital factories are factories of the future that use digital technology to perform modeling, communication, and other functional operations in the manufacturing process. They operate with digital models which replicate the physical industries. The primary goal of a digital factory is to provide operational flexibility and improve efficiency. These factories can have operational units spread across different locations as per the requirement.
Further, based on the objectives of the organization, working processes, governance, deliverables, and quality check are defined. This facilitates optimal manufacturing with continuous feedback-driven innovation paving the way for higher performance and efficiency. These digital factories provide a path for smart manufacturing which leverages emerging disruptive technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, big data, and many more. Smart manufacturing aims to optimize the production cycle by simultaneously minimizing human efforts, wastage of resources as well as production cost. As per the study, soaring investment in factories has increased production output by 10%, factory capital by 11%, and labor productivity by 12%. Now, let us look into the real-world implementation of digital factories.
Role of Digital Twins in Digital Factories
Basically, digital twins are virtual engineering models of products that facilitate change, optimize, and re-design the product. They represent product and production systems that help manufacturers to reduce the time and cost involved in installing, assembling, and validating factory production systems. Digital twins also allow the management of assets by maintaining equipment in the field. Thus, in digital factories, a product is manufactured only when its digital twin is optimized to the maximum possible extent by removing bugs and improving functionalities and is good to be processed like a real product.
The Downside of Digital Factories
As we have understood the advantages of digital factories, let us try to understand their downsides. According to a study, 19% of US manufacturers are not even thinking about digital factories, 30% are thinking about the idea but not moving forward. Manufacturers believe that there are potential cyber risks involved in the implementation of advanced technologies in the manufacturing sector. Industrial robots, for instance, are vulnerable to advanced hacking leading to data breaches. However, these vulnerabilities can be handled with proper evaluation of risks and taking precautionary measures to avoid data theft and breaches.
The idea of digital factories is not new, and the implementation is still in its nascent stage owing to limited awareness about their advantages over risks. It's high time for the manufacturing industries to step out and leverage the future of manufacturing— digital factories. Due to the cost reduction of digital platforms, today, even small-scale organizations can access digital factory software. Using human labor with proper communication channels and risk evaluations, any factory can be turned into a digital factory to ripe the benefits.