Manufacturers must get smarter and embrace the factory of the future if they are to thrive, according to experts at Manchester’s Factories of the Future expo. 

Business leaders are increasingly using tech to overhaul legacy systems, reduce costs and improve transparency on plant floors.

Being open to innovation and getting a tech-savvy workforce involved will also be key to streamlining processes.

That was the message from those gathered at the Factory of the Future Expo in Manchester this week, which ran in parallel to the Industry 4.0 Summit.

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Pete Thompson of Invisible Systems

“Manufacturers want to increase productivity and reduce downtime and they want to have a smarter factory, so yes they are interested in tech,” Themos Moraitis, strategic account manager at Red Lion Controls told BusinessCloud.

“The issue is that manufacturing is a conservative industry so decisions are not always taken quickly.

“They also have lots of legacy equipment and it’s a big cost to buy new ones, and that’s where we come and give the solution.”

The company provides connected technology that plugs into legacy equipment allowing factory owners to see returns without a complete overhaul.

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Moraitis sees OT (operations technology) and IT becoming increasingly aligned to create the factory of the future.

“Everyone wants to collect data and data will drive decisions. It will be more cloud-based so the operations engineering part of the factory and IT will merge into one.”

Getting staff involved is also key to streamlining processes according to Total Control Pro’s marketing and communications representative Jake Sanders.

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Nick Scott of 3ds

The company creates barcodes bespoke to business needs that they can place at stations around the factory floor.

Staff then scan the barcodes to log their start and finish times, show which tasks they’re working on and alert when there are stoppages, meaning increased visibility throughout the production chain.

“We work to make sure the scanning stations are in the right place but also that the data connection is right so they can use this data to improve processes,” said Sanders.

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Examples of scanning technology employed in the factory of the future

“Not only are you getting visibility but what they should do with the data is included in the service too.

“Traditionally small businesses would have to leave the office and talk to every employee or collect all the paper and read through it all to get this information, but now they can just scan scan scan and it’s all there for them.”

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Manufacturers are seeing the value in the technology said Sanders, and some are now wanting to investigate further.

“A lot of companies get what they want from the screen and that’s a basic example, but some want to interrogate it more and get more from it, so we have any trend that’s in that data and we show them how to use it.”