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The smart factory is a hot topic at the moment. The new industrial revolution known as Industry 4.0 is changing in how products are manufactured. From integrated logistics to maintenance planning, these new developments are will alter our understanding of how a factory looks. However, with all this talk of the “smart factory,” we might be forgiven for overlooking the value that these developments can offer away from the production line.
Logistics and Smart Robots
When robots were introduced into factories in the 1960s, they were unintelligent machines. Their value was in their ability to precisely perform the same task time and again with little supervision. However, they were not designed to be adaptable.
The robots in the modern factory are very different. Advances in electronics and integration into the factory network allows robots to respond quickly to changing demands, making production more dynamic. But a flexible manufacturing process requires an equally flexible supply chain to ensure production can continue. There remains the problem of delivering the right materials to the correct location in a timely manner.
The supply of products has always been one of the biggest considerations in any industrial process. To ensure the smooth running of a production line, companies used to stockpile the raw materials to make sure they would never run out. However, this is a costly approach, both in terms of the space required and the value tied up in as-yet unused materials.
Concepts developed in the mid-20th century such as lean manufacturing and just-in-time delivery have reduced the need for holding unwanted stock, but Industry 4.0 has delivered the technology to truly allow these ideas to mature. In this arena, autonomous robots are playing an important role. The factory of the future will see an army of delivery robots moving in a complex ballet, delivering components to the right location at the very moment they are needed.
Despite the high-tech nature of the smart factory, it remains a tough environment for sensitive electronic equipment. So, while the new breed of robot packs in more technology than ever, it still needs to survive the rigours of the factory floor.
Beyond the Factory Gates
Many other areas of society are embracing the advantages that IIoT is providing. The connected nature of modern networks means that conventional infrastructure can become dynamic. At its simplest, this can mean the real-time control of power. In the old model, power management was passive – lights were left on and machines remained powered, even when they were not in use.
The same connected intelligence that is applied to the management of data can be applied to energy consumption. However, this means that smart connectivity needs to be provided to devices that previously had no need to be networked. Power supplies, air conditioning and even premises lighting form part of the smart factory network and need to be connected.
The Smart Factory is a Connected Factory
Connectors for the smart factory need to combine high-speed performance with the reliability to function in a demanding environment. The amount of data that is collected and processed from these facilities will continue to grow, and so engineers must be able to find connector solutions that have the capacity to cope with future needs.
Samtec has developed a range of connectors that are ideally suited to the smart factory of tomorrow. From high-speed, high-density arrays like the SEARAY™ (158-7775) family to compact, rugged power connectors like the mPOWER® Ultra Micro Power range (187-2161) , Samtec offers a complete solution for the Industrial Internet of Things. Many of Samtec's products are tested to or beyond industry standards to ensure quality and performance in industrial applications.
To learn more about the industrial range of products and certification from Samtec, visit the dedicated industrial page, or view the complete range of Samtec products available from RS Components.