E-Handbook: Cloud is key to linking digital manufacturing technologies Article 1 of 4

Smart factories are built on complex web of emerging tech

Customers these days are very demanding. They want goods that are personalized for them, and they want them delivered tomorrow -- if not sooner.

Manufacturers strain to meet the customer demands as they begin to realize that traditional manufacturing methods and infrastructure are no longer adequate. As a result, companies are increasingly implementing digital manufacturing technologies and processes in smart factories.

Digital manufacturing employs a variety of cloud-enabled next-generation technologies -- IoT, AI, machine learning, advanced analytics, robotics, blockchain and 3D printing -- to radically transform the manufacturing processes. All parts of the sales process are affected by these technologies, including customer relations, product materials sourcing, manufacturing plant operations, supply chain logistics and order fulfillment.

And it all runs in the cloud, which allows organizations to knit the new digital manufacturing technologies together. But to implement a smart factory, manufacturers will need to understand their goals, develop roadmaps to determine how everything connects and avoid implementing a new technology simply for technology's sake.

Although many initial digital manufacturing technologies have been implemented on a public cloud infrastructure, this pattern is changing as manufacturers begin to run more hybrid systems, meaning that much of the industrial IoT processing occurs on site.

The cloud, however, is not for all manufacturers, as evidenced by one company's bad experience in moving its manufacturing ERP system to the cloud. That and other critical issues are examined in this handbook on digital manufacturing and its role in making the smart factory a reality.

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