To increase output, enhance quality control, and encourage lifelong learning, it is necessary to discover effective solutions and collaborate with an appropriate provider.
FREMONT, CA: Medical device manufacturers face many of the same challenges as other manufacturers of complex devices and equipment: cost control, inventory management, and global supply chain coordination, as well as maintaining manufacturing flexibility to change product mix and introduce new products as market requirements change and new opportunities arise.
At first look, higher throughput and almost error-free manufacturing appear to be mutually exclusive objectives. To accomplish these goals, businesses are increasing their investments in advanced factory automation systems and tools—the Factory of the Future technology.
The Factory of the Future is an intelligent, adaptable, and highly agile manufacturing environment that provides plant operations and management with real-time, detailed information necessary to maximize the value and performance of each machine and production unit.
Everything in the Factory of the Future, also known as Industry 4.0 or i4.0, is connected. Networks connect separate machine components with embedded sensors and intelligence to a cloud-based solution via machine- and plant-level communications structures. Sophisticated software collects, transports, and analyses data in ways that enable both production transparency and practical responses to inquiries about bottlenecks in production, wasteful workflows, and equipment in need of preventive maintenance.
The potential benefits of applying this type of technology to the issues faced by medical producers can be substantial if the technology is applied intelligently and strategically. Too frequently, firms believe that simply increasing the usage of automated production technologies and connecting them to a factory-wide network will increase productivity and process control.
To maximize the benefit of Factory of the Future technologies, medical firms must evaluate various aspects of their current production systems and manufacturing processes:
Existing automation level: How automated are manufacturing processes—and is the automation targeted appropriately? Depending on the product being manufactured, numerous assembly procedures are equally efficient and cost-effective when performed manually; these workstations can be enhanced with a range of i4.0 operator-assist technologies coupled to smart-powered conveyor systems.
Upgrades to old manufacturing systems: Numerous manufacturing plants have a variety of machinery, ranging from legacy equipment lacking sophisticated controls, sensors, or communications capabilities to state-of-the-art systems fully suited for Factory of the Future operation. Assessing the state of legacy systems and devising incremental, step-by-step strategies for their update is critical for maximizing the return on i4.0 investments.
The current state of lean: All the Factory of the Future technology in the world will not address core issues such as waste and inefficient operations. i4.0 technology may be used efficiently and yield the highest benefits only when manufacturers have a well-established lean culture and practices.
Globalization: Certain medical device manufacturers are expanding their global supply and manufacturing chains while maintaining the highest quality standards between existing high-cost manufacturing locations and newer, lower-cost manufacturing locations, which may combine automation and manual assembly, posing potential problems. i4.0 technology enables real-time, cloud-based data sharing and analysis in manufacturing.