Industry 4.0: What is Smart Manufacturing?

Industry 4.0: What is Smart Manufacturing?

Date Published: 05-02-2019 | Author: Sigourney Bruintjies

In recent years, smart manufacturing has been conceptualized as a system that goes beyond the factory. Smart manufacturing is a powerful disruptive force with the potential to restructure the current competitive landscape of manufacturing.

This form of manufacturing is the concept of digitization on the factory floor. It is a combination of cloud solutions, the Internet of Things (IoT), smart analytics and robotics. Smart manufacturing depends on the availability of critical data across all manufacturing operations. Therefore, it requires fully integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems that respond in real-time to meet changing demands and conditions in the factory and supply network. Smart manufacturing aims to take advantage of advanced information and manufacturing technologies to implement flexibility in physical processes to address a dynamic and international market.

There are four facets of smart manufacturing that can contribute remarkably towards the industry:

Converting data into information

Making sense of the data that has been generated in abundance on the shop floor and the plant is the core of smart manufacturing. What smart manufacturing does is, it puts the large volume of manufacturing Big Data to effective use by performing advanced analysis on it. The extracted information can be applied to expose hidden patterns, correlations, trends, and other untapped insights. This will allow for key decision makers to make more informed actionable decisions.


Connectivity refers to a network of machines and devices instantaneously communicating information during the manufacturing process. This form of communication is valuable in the manufacturing environment as it allows for, almost instantaneous, fault handling between machines which leads to a reduction in overall production downtime. Machine to machine connectivity is becoming the core of warehousing because of the various supply chain management activities and operations that can be monitored from anywhere.

Industry 4.0

Furthermore, Industry 4.0 is marked by the presence of intelligent cyber-physical systems that contribute to the automated execution of all activities along the value chain. The manufacturing sector is gradually moving towards complete digitization with the convergence of Big Data, cloud sensors, and hyper-connectivity.

Crucial Metrics

Lastly, manufacturers are steadily focused on increasing productivity and product quality while reducing cost and meeting delivery timelines. By combining smart manufacturing mechanisms with 3D printing, advanced robotics and augmented reality, manufacturers position themselves for an unparalleled advantage.