TechnologyJuly 8, 2022

5 Ways Smart Factory Analytics Bridge Data and Communication Silos

Smart manufacturing

Manufacturing companies across the world are trying to figure out a way to integrate data and simulate it for meaningful decision-making. Complete deployment of smart manufacturing with IIoT and cloud technology has brought the industry to the doorstep of this end-to-end connectivity.

Today, despite the widespread popularity of the Industrial Internet of Things [IIoT], relatively few manufacturing firms have put the theory into practice and deployed IIOT technologies in their plants. There are a plethora of benefits that lie beneath the surface of the initial investment in the transition to this digital technology, equipment, and processes.

The 2020 Gartner Smart Manufacturing Strategy and Implementation Trends survey shows that:

  • 86% of respondents agree that smart manufacturing is an integral component of their digital supply chain strategy.
  • 84% expect smart manufacturing to increase their competitiveness.
  • Yet, less than 50% of manufacturing leaders are implementing or have a fully deployed smart manufacturing strategy.

As manufacturers expand and their businesses go global, those with more granular and real-time insights into their systems win. A quick answer to every question enables agility and competitiveness. Without this, they fall behind in this highly competitive market.

Most of the shop floor questions can be answered with real-time visibility for end-to-end processes and knowing the where, why, what, and how for all your assets. The traditional factory setup does not offer these insights as the data obtained from each system is either incomplete, independent on its own, non-standard, or obsolete by the time it reaches decision-makers. And they create gaps in communication across departments.

Operational challenges due to gaps in communication

  • Gaps in action plans for interdependent operations: Every time there is a glitch or deviation in shop floor operations, the shop floor engineers have to track it down physically or the cause remains unknown. It is a time-consuming process and the operations can be slowed down or even halted.
  • Inability to track orders: In a traditional setup, the supply chain has a single point of contact with shop floor management. As a result, there are so many gaps that they hamper decision-making and there is no certainty of when the shipment will reach its destination.
  • Inaccuracies in order quantities, schedules, etc.: Without close sync between a purchase manager and a warehouse manager, inventories cannot be ordered in proper quantity or on time. It impacts both departments and causes disruptions in production schedules.
  • Wasted storage space: When the orders are over-ordered, they need storage space in the warehouse, causing inconveniences in managing inventories. Also, the project cost could skyrocket.
  • Data integrity: Duplicated, non-updated or obsolete data compromises data integrity and accuracy. It leads to faulty decision-making, impacting the overall project schedule, cost, inventory, etc.

By adopting a smart factory approach with sensor-controlled data, dashboards, analytics, and automated solutions, data silos can be removed. Factory owners can get a clearer picture of what is happening on the shop floor and across the supply chain to raise overall productivity.

5 ways smart factories help you improve seamless data exchange and communication

Reliable and timely data helps save costs through digital twins

The Gartner statistics quoted above state that only 50% have fully deployed smart manufacturing strategies. The interpretation of the word ‘fully’ is important. It means collecting data from all touchpoints and establishing a link between all of them on a central database. This gives a 360-degree picture of the factory using reports, dashboards, conditions of machines, operational accuracy, etc. on a single screen.

With such real-time reporting on a computer or mobile device screen, one can virtually set up the digital factory shop floor – essentially a digital twin of the factory. This integrated data with simulation generates a digital twin to help bring down costs by predicting the interplay of machines first digitally and then physically. This way the shop floor managers know the final impact beforehand and processes can be optimized to save costs – while keeping all concerned departments in the loop.

Lean operations with digitally connected supply chain and logistics

Transportation often accounts for about 30% of planned expenses. Likewise, storage costs in the US are $4 to $7 per square foot. Depending on your storage facility, as well as labor and equipment charges, production companies often end up spending 40-90% of the business’ total budget. Any overheads in these areas weigh heavily on budgets.

Common strategies like reducing fleets, finding cheaper alternatives, etc. are insignificant for massive manufacturing firms. This is where smart manufacturing helps by optimizing inventory, storage costs, and planning logistics.

Digital tools such as fleet management software, centralized inventory management software, etc. connected with ERP and CRM systems, provide real-time insights for all stakeholders. They provide collaborative visibility into the entire supply chain with shipping updates, receipt acknowledgment, tracking orders, etc. with RFIDs.

Digital tools for inventory tracking enable maintaining a check on inventory levels to help you plan and order bought-out parts, raw material, etc. on time and avoid delays. An Australian freight company reduced fleet costs by 9-17% through fuel economy, reduced idling, and improved purchase habits, along with a 90% reduction in safety issues and breaches using digitization with Deloitte.

Plan and schedule machine maintenance in advance

Datasets in silos are not valuable. But using the same datasets – when connected and talking to each other – a hefty amount of valuable information is derived. For example, if a shop has the details of when each lathe machine was purchased, it can also provide information on how many orders the shop needs to complete in any particular month. Additionally, the maintenance engineer has a detailed schedule for machine maintenance plans.

Despite all these datasets, if the maintenance engineer and production engineer do not communicate, the delivery schedules cannot be planned accurately: the latter might dedicate three random lathes, one of which might have downtime scheduled around the delivery date. This will result in a miss or pushing the timelines further.

A centralized platform for insights into all your assets helps draw a dashboard where all details about the production floor are available in the form of tables, graphs, charts, etc. that are easy to understand, and enable proactive maintenance. Documentation regarding warranties, contract renewals, discarding, etc. can be managed easily.

Ensure high-quality products

Smart factories can efficiently and immediately detect process or operational malfunctions, deviations, and deliver an in-depth economic evaluation of the entire plant. For example, a sensor fixed on an axel measures and sends signals to the dashboard to detect anything unusual. Thus, any out-of-order axel vibrations and their impact on the final product can be rectified before it is too late.

An integrated system of sensors provides the monitoring personnel with detailed information about the system under observation. Anomalies are detected before complete breakdown or wrongdoings to save cost, raw material, time, and other resources.

These systems also enable scheduling prescriptive maintenance to avoid obstacles during peak time and save the machine from failing. LEWA GmBH installed such a sensor-backed system for their pumps to leverage data analysis to make maximum use of the smart monitoring system on production operations.

Monitor and reduce energy consumption

Smart monitoring can also be equipped to keep a check on the energy consumption of the production shop. Often called Energy Monitoring Systems or EMS, these sensor-triggered checks are accurate in flagging excess energy consumption. These are particularly helpful for energy-intensive companies that not only focus on reducing waste but also save costs to offer affordable products.

A sensor network is attached to energy meters and data loggers to keep a constant and real-time check. This data is then transferred to a cloud server so that it can be monitored remotely on any device, and so that surplus energy consumption can be cut immediately.


Manufacturing companies across the world are trying to figure out a way to integrate data and simulate it for meaningful decision-making. Complete deployment of smart manufacturing with IIoT and cloud technology has brought the industry to the doorstep of this end-to-end connectivity. They bridge the existing gap in traditional manufacturing and deliver higher ROIs by improving existing processes.

The transition from traditional to tech-driven manufacturing seems daunting. But with the right strategy, it can turn out to be seamless and hassle-free. It helps you bring all stakeholders closer and on the same page through real-time, accurate reporting and by avoiding delays. Accurate integration, connectivity, and the right queries for dashboards and charts using analytics set you apart.

Eric Whitley,  Director of Smart Manufacturing, L2L