March/April 2020

Being smarter about Smart Factory | 20 | March/April 2020 | STRATEGIES | Part one – Looking internally at Smart Factory initiatives First, what is the Smart Factory? The principle is to create an intelligent network throughout the manufacturing process, connecting machines and other systems that can control each other autonomously (or at least semi- autonomously). This is the Smart Factory in the most basic sense; the concept encapsulates a multitude of cyber-physical systems and new, added capabilities such as virtual copies of the manufacturing plant (Digital Twins). This survey of IT and OT decision makers at 204 European manufacturing companies with more than 500 employees, which have at least some level of Smart Factory initiatives in place, has offered unrivalled insight into the internal drivers of deployment. Maturity of the market As a precursor to the survey, all participants had to have some level of Smart Factory initiative deployed. With a combined 73% in the planning and early phase, this showcased exactly what was expected in the survey, that most initiatives are in the planning or early (often pilot) stage. But already an impressive one fifth (19%) are in the medium phase (already generating business impacts) and 8% with organisation-wide Smart Factory deployment. This is much higher than we might have expected and means that the business case has been won and executed by an encouraging proportion of companies in Europe. Cost As with any new technology, cost is the main challenge to the decision to deploy. In fact, over half (58%) cite “cost of purchase of Smart Factory solutions” as the biggest challenge to implementing a Smart Factory initiative. Almost half (48%) state that “building the business case for Smart Factory investment” is a significant challenge. With the purse strings held tight, and manufacturers struggling to present a strong business case, is this slowing investment? With new initiatives it’s safe to say this would be expected, but the survey shows a surprising differing opinion. Of those surveyed 63% of companies are planning to increase their investment in Smart Factory in the next three years. This can be interpreted to show that Manufacturers are under pressure to be more efficient and profitable, driving them to new technologies born from the fourth industrial revolution. Completed by teknowlogy Group, a new survey has been released showcasing the use cases, barriers and future of the Smart Factory. Over two issues, Stratus Technologies will be offering insight into the results and what this means for the industrial sector. Greg Hookings, head of business development – digitalisation, Stratus Technologies reports.