Smart Manufacturing Technology during COVID-19; A step towards future

By : Surya Narayan Dev
Friday, Dec 11, 2020

Smart Manufacturing Technology during Covid-19; A step towards future

Along with the globe, the manufacturing industry is also surviving through the effects caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. An estimated 64% of the industry was affected by the lockdown as 40-50% of the workforce was unavailable to execute tasks on-site. A survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers found out that the country's industrial growth will hit a 30 year low of 2% in the financial year 2020-21. Now that the operations are slowly commencing again, the health of the workforce has become the priority of manufacturers across the country, and also the government. To cope up with decreased worker density, manufacturers have started deploying automation and smart factory technologies. These days have proven as a critical time to explore smart manufacturing strategies and bring automation onto the factory floor.

Social distancing in the workplace Following the social distancing norms in the workplace has become a preference for both labourers and manufacturers. AI aided technology can be a huge help in keeping the minimum distance between workers and preventing overcrowding. Hands-free door openers such as foot-operated door knobs will aid in reducing contact with surfaces. AI-enabled workplace monitoring system which can be integrated into CCTV cameras will give an alert when the distance between workers exceeds six feet. Workplace safety wearables can help in contact tracing. In case a worker gets infected, their location data history can be collected through the device and can identify the people who have been in contact with the infected person. Automation of repetitive tasks and deploying autonomous devices will enable firms to withstand lower employee density.

AI in supply chain Using IoT & AI for predictive maintenance will help in meeting the changing demands and circumstances in the supply chain and factories. Real-time analysis of the supply chain will recognize weak links in the network and identify alternative suppliers to take action accordingly. Big data analytics will reshape the future supply chain and will turn it from forecast-driven to demand-driven. This will be a huge advantage in anticipating the future market and moving according to customer demands. Data science algorithms will make customer segmentation and clustering easier by integrating data from customer actions and product reviews.

Surveillance during social distancing Overall administrative chores in the factory can be done by integrating them into several schemes such as plant asset management, warehouse management system, and machine condition monitoring. Live status of machinery can be made available on dashboards and supervisors can manage operations in that manner to minimize unnecessary walkabouts. Quality inspection can be done through image analytics, instead of visiting the factory ground directly. 3D cameras which can count the number of people present in the workplace will give alerts to the manager via email or text messages to prevent overcrowding. Employees can be supervised through thermal cameras which can check their body temperature while they're in the workplace. These strategies, which will increase efficiency, reduce: risk, time and cost, are also going to create a new normal in the future manufacturing industry after the pandemic. Smart manufacturing industry 4.0, as the outcome of the fourth industrial revolution, will pave the way for long-term changes in the whole industry.

About the Author
Surya is the Founder & CTO of Project42 Labs. A King’s College London alumnus, he has over 9 years of experience in Data Science & Machine Learning and building end-to-end solutions to meet business goals. He’s usually found playing sports, reading and listening to music when not working.