General Industries

7 ways to introduce smart manufacturing processes

November 16, 2023

Boost productivity and stay ahead with our Guide to Smart Manufacturing on your Assembly Line.

Discover strategies for Data-driven Processes, Total Traceability, efficient Tool Management, Light automation, and more. Explore Desoutter's ECOSYSTEM for expert solutions.

Boosting productivity and working smarter are key to maintaining a competitive edge. Introducing Smart Manufacturing Processes that evolve with your business over time can deliver the agility you need to rebalance production processes in response to market fluctuations, and the flexibility to quickly adopt new technologies and implement better ways of working. Industry 4.0 sets out the principles of smart manufacturing but turning that theory into reality in a busy production environment can be challenging. Manufacturers need practical ways to harness and apply the potential of Industry 4.0 to improve operational efficiency, eliminate rework and improve margins. This includes the ability to plan, design and continuously improve individual processes at any time.  

So how can connectivity, the internet of things (IoT), data mining and seamless integration be applied to deliver big benefits for your business? The key is to build up gradually, until you have a smart production ecosystem that encompasses everything from smart assembly tools to powerful data analytics.

Here are Desoutter’s top tips for developing smart assembly lines that are scalable, adaptable and future-proofed. 

1. Make the data work for you

Data is your most valuable commodity. Used correctly, the information being produced by smart assembly tools can support predictive maintenance and condition monitoring, improve overall equipment effectiveness, and boost productivity and uptime. When investing in a solution, ensure the software is compatible with all the tools you want to monitor, regardless of the manufacturer. Some solutions offer features like real-time processing, programmable dashboards, mobile alerts, and robust reporting options that will ensure your data is working for you.  Motion capture for manufacturing processes efficiency

2. Achieve total traceability

Right-first-time working and total traceability are two additional benefits of Industry 4.0 in practice. Process control systems can guide operatives through diverse tasks efficiently and support a zero defect strategy. Human-machine interfaces (HMI) and infrared positioning may be used to show the operator exactly what tools to use, what components to apply and where to fix them (Positioning system). The system then verifies that each step has been completed correctly before allowing the operator to move to the next stage. These process control systems make it easier to meet validation and traceability requirements.

3. Banish defects

Process control for manufacturing processes In addition to providing total traceability, process control systems can support zero defect strategy. They can accept data directly from the ERP, automatically scan and select the right tools and fixings for the task. This information is then fed to the workstation so the operator can proceed with assembly, minimizing rework. Another advantage with this solution is that it does not require any specialized programming skills to reconfigure. This makes it easier to accommodate variations more quickly, or to scale production up or down to match market fluctuations, with no loss of accuracy.

4. Network your tooling

Tool management can be time-consuming, especially across multiple assembly lines. Use wireless tools to:  

  • Reduce cabling complexity 
  • Introduce the option to use a single point of connection for communications between the factory network and groups of tools

This networking approach uses a smart hub to streamline tool programming. A smart hub can manage up to 20 cordless tools, each of which can be fine-tuned to meet specific application requirements. In addition to that, Smart hub makes line rebalancing incredibly easy. Some smart hubs can take less than 30 seconds to pair a tool using RFID technology. 

Smart hubs also gathers tool data, making it simpler to generate reports. This level of agility means that all assembly line settings can be reconfigured within minutes rather than hours, boosting uptime and maximizing productivity. 

5. Learn to love cobots

Smart manufacturing requires new forms of collaboration between people, machinery and software. The increasing use of collaborative robots (cobots) is driving the development of lighter, flexible tools that uphold the highest levels of safety. These tools are easy to incorporate onto a robot and will work seamlessly alongside a human operator. They can deliver exceptional performance, interactivity and traceability in automated assembly.  

These tools are ideal for light applications, such as car seat assembly and underbody work, especially when the tool needs to manage many different horizontal and vertical orientations. 

6. Boost productivity with tailor-made machines

Reducing takt time is a big part of working smarter. There are many tools available to help, so start with the tasks that will deliver the biggest wins.  

For example, if your assembly process involves multiple fasteners, using an automated screwfeeder could save a lot of time by eliminating manual handling of small components.  

For high performance applications, a smart multi-spindle may provide the answer. Besides covering a wide range of torque and speed requirements, this solution has a clear target: no stop on the line. Multi-spindles are generally designed for tough working environments and offers rapid rebalancing in the unlikely event of hardware failure.  

Screw feeder for manufacturing processes

7. Find the right partner

Only you know which solution is best for your application and your budget at any given time. Be sure to choose a technology partner with the right technical and industrial experience, who can offer an assessment of your line, and a wide selection of flexible and scalable solutions without sacrificing functionality, interoperability, and forwards compatibility. An ​Ecosystem based on collaborative working between the manufacturing process solution supplier and experts within your company is key.  It connects people, as well as technology, to deliver the right solution at the right time. 

If you'd like to know more about manufacturing process solutions (tightening assembly and drilling solutions), visit your local Desoutter Ecosystem expert.