What is a Smart Factory? Where do I start?


by Seth Green – Market Leader, Manufacturing Vertical at N3N

Imagine going into your next QBR meeting and coming out with the directive, “Make your factory smarter.” What exactly does that mean? And more importantly, if you’re like me and don’t have an IT background – How do you get started? It’s a daunting yet imperative task to address if you want to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for your products while faced with a rapidly shrinking and aging workforce.  You need to get on it fast!

What is a Smart Factory?

A Smart Factory is a Six Sigma dream model where all your inbound raw material arrives just in time to meet the needs of your line, enabling your team to run product in perfect flow with your outbound requirements. Issues like “unplanned downs” don’t exist because the machines are smart enough to tell you they need a tune-up before they break. You have a perfect flow of A, B and C movers, the VP of Sales loves you, and the account executives name their kids after you because your factory has everything they need right when they need it, enabling them to meet their clients’ demands faster than ever before.

Where do I start?

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. The good news is that you probably have most of the infrastructure needed to enable your existing data and take the first steps toward building a smarter factory. The first question any IoT or M2M consultant will ask you is, “What does your data look like?” or “What systems do you have in place now?”

If your answer is something like “I have no idea”; don’t worry, most of your existing systems probably already have an app to enable better maintenance and provide a window into its productivity.  I imagine you’re thinking, ”That’s true, all my machines have their own dashboard but they’re all different! And, they don’t talk to one another…so, now what?”.

You’re not alone in your concern. One of the best actions you can take to enable your data is to centralize it in one place. Creating a single unified viewpoint where all your stakeholders can visualize key data helps you to break down the walls of your existing disparate systems. Such tools exist providing much-needed insight into the health of not just your machines, but when properly applied, your business as a whole. When your SMEs can see a complete and holistic view of your cleansed data and it is presented in a consumable format, you’ll be amazed at the insight and direction you’ll have at your disposal to better run your facility and move towards that Six Sigma utopia described above.

Your company can service your clients more effectively and efficiently if Operations has visibility into your pipeline and Business Development has access to the run rates of your factory. Fewer missed deadlines, fewer backorders, lower lead times, lower production costs and higher productivity all lead to happier clients.

A Smart Factory can help you get there. By enabling your existing machines and systems to speak to one another, you will gain meaningful insight into the health of your business and your factory will become instantly “Smart.”

Leveraging your existing technology to get started

The technology to make it all happen is available. Every assembly and factory line is different but the principles of IoT have become fairly standard so there are best practices in place to keep the ROI strong on your project. Find a trusted advisor in the field that will walk your factory floor with you and talk to you and your team about where you want to be. They can help you get there, but it will be you and your teams that collaborate to make the project successful. Companies like N3N and others merely provide a looking glass into what’s possible with a motor that has the horsepower to enable your successful transition into the realm of Smart Manufacturing.

Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Despite your own worst fears, your problems are not unique and technology has many of the answers. You don’t have to be an IT guru to manage a Smart Factory. Find a Partner that understands you and your business and let them help you get you where you want to be.


About the Author

With almost 20 years in both Manufacturing and Technology, Seth Green brings a unique perspective to the ever-evolving Smart Factory world. His first job out of the Navy in 2000 had Seth traveling all over the world, visiting factories and sourcing product for multiple verticals in the US. Several years later, his passion for the Automotive industry led his career to one of the largest manufacturers of Aftermarket and OE parts in Australia, where he eventually landed as Director of National Sales and Operations for the US. And for the past 5 years, he has taken all those years of experience working within the Operations realm and used it to stand up several different M2M and IoT projects at some of the biggest production facilities in the world.

About N3N

Organizations and smart cities across the globe trust N3N to deliver innovative digital transformation and IoT solutions to achieve powerful business and operational outcomes. Our dynamic operations visualization platform seamlessly converges data from sensors, connected devices, video feeds and more in a single view for real-time actionable insights that drive real-world decisions. Founded in 2012, N3N is a Cisco venture-backed company headquartered in Foster City, California with global offices in South Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.