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The road to the smart factory

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The venerable factory is an important competitive weapon in the digital economy. Smart manufacturing programs can deliver financial benefits that are tangible and auditable. More importantly, it transitions the production function from one that is capacity centric to one that is capability centric and able to serve global markets and discerning customers.
A new IDC Manufacturing Insights report, IDC TechScape: Worldwide Smart Manufacturing Technologies, 2015, focuses on technology adoption within the industry for smart manufacturing and assesses key technologies that are driving evolution beyond the current industry technology best practices of today.
IDC Manufacturing Insights groups the technologies involved in smart manufacturing into four main categories:
* Data acquisition:  Data acquisition involves the capture of information on the factory floor. This might include human-based recording via devices or unattended capture via sensors.
* Connectivity:  Relates to the data networking that moves data from the acquisition device to systems that process the information. The connectivity is bidirectional as data is also moved to the edge of the network. Connectivity includes both wired and wireless networks.
* Analytics:  Acquiring and moving data is an important foundation for the smart factory, but the most immediate value will be delivered in terms of how companies use that data. Technologies that help manufacturing firms understand what happened (retrospective), what is happening (perspective), and what might happen (predictive) will translate to a factory network that is more responsive to market needs.
* Actuation: Once the data is acquired, communicated, and analysed, companies would like to initiate action without human intervention. If analytics represents the best opportunity for immediate value, this autonomic operational potential represents the greatest long-term value proposition. It will separate those that view factories as competitive weapons to deliver a better customer experience from those that see production facilities as a necessary operational burden.
According to Robert Parker, group vice-president and GM of IDC Retail, Energy, and Manufacturing Insights: “Whatever you call the vision — smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0, or the future factory — achieving the next generation of cyberphysical production requires a number of technologies to come together. In this IDC TechScape, we identify the key technologies, categorise their relative impact, and provide insight into how they should be deployed. Clients can use this report to build a more effective road map to the future factory.”