Smart Manufacturing vs Digital Manufacturing: How to Unlock Industry 4.0 Benefits

August 31, 2021 by Stefanini

The technological advancements seen in the manufacturing sector are nothing short of extraordinary, and so it’s no surprise that this transformation has been the subject of many headlines and articles.

However, the terms related to this such as smart manufacturing, digital manufacturing, and Industry 4.0 are often used interchangeably. This mismatched nomenclature can present a challenge for those looking to translate which technological advancements are meaningful for their business.

To learn more about the difference between smart manufacturing vs digital manufacturing read on!

Smart Manufacturing vs Digital Manufacturing

New innovations such as artificial intelligence, big data, automation, Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT), robotics, additive technologies, and augmented reality are revolutionizing the manufacturing sector.

The decline in the cost of edge-computing and additive manufacturing systems has sparked an increased interest in the adoption of smart and digital manufacturing by medium-and small-size companies. Leading experts agree that the convergences of these recent innovations will transform every link in manufacturing value chain. 

While many manufacturers are aware of these innovations, the amount responding to these opportunities and threats in a comprehensive manner remains somewhat small.

Further, while terms like smart and digital manufacturing or industry 4.0 seem interchangeable, the misperception of these terms can make it difficult for companies who are beginning their digital transformation to understand exactly what they’re getting into.

What is digital manufacturing?

Digital manufacturing is an integrated approach to manufacturing centered on the implantation of computer systems, encompassing all elements of manufacturing that apply a data and analytics base to a single or small suite of processes. The implementation of computerized equipment or processes was at the heart of manufacturing’s third technological revolution.

A digital factory uses computerized processes to automatically share information digitally across an operation, including data from materials, people, and machines. Digital manufacturing relies on an integrated system consisting of simulation technologies, connected equipment, and collaboration tools. The collective phenomenon in manufacturing induced by all the digital tools recently innovated “Digital Manufacturing” to describe the transformation.

Defining the features of digital manufacturing

  • Computerized factory equipment
  • The beginning of simulation through 3D modeling  
  • Production processes influenced by data analytics and information technologies
  • Additive manufacturing or 3D printing

What is smart manufacturing?

In contrast, Smart manufacturing can be thought of as a broad category. This not only includes computer integrated systems, high levels of adaptability, rapid design changes, a more flexible and technical workforce, but also expands the concept to include supply chains and interconnected manufacturing plants.

The term “Smart Manufacturing” finds its roots in a coalition co-founded by more than 200 partners in the manufacturing industry and academic institutions. According to Atollogy, “The organization, Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) recognizes that new information technologies have been applied to optimize individual unit processes in factories, but Smart Manufacturing (“SM”) systems that integrate manufacturing intelligence in real-time across an entire production operation are rare in large companies, and virtually non-existent in small and medium size organizations.” 

Smart Manufacturing is focused on creating smart products with smart factories, smart manufacturing processes and smart enterprise procedures that link the entire product value chain with a digital thread. This is a virtual representation that serves as a real-time counterpart of a physical object or process.

The digital thread must be interpreted by smart product and a smart manufacturing process in order to build to the right product specifications and configuration. Therefore, the digital thread as implemented in a smart factory is both a foundation and requirement for smart manufacturing.

Defining the features of smart manufacturing

  • ·       Digital threads contributing to development of a digital twin 3D model virtualization
  • ·       Big data processing and analytics through a decentralized control room
  • ·       Advanced robotics performing more sophisticated repetitive tasks
  • ·       Elimination of workplace inefficiencies and hazards
  • ·       Communication across the supply chain and multiple factory locations.

Unlocking the Benefits of Industry 4.0 Technologies

In the same way the assembly line bolstered mass production in the first industrial revolution, the convergence of digital capabilities has led to a fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0. It is important to note that while each of these terms bear a unique history, they have evolved to be almost synonymous with each other.

This is in large part because Smart and Digital factories are deeply connect with Industry 4.0 efforts that leverage recent innovations in digital technology to transform the manufacturing value chain.

This matters because this wave of innovation is already disrupting the fundamentals of the manufacturing sector. Defining your company’s digital maturity level and recognizing what Industry 4.0 technology will make the biggest impact in your operation ensures that you set the pace against your competitors while preparing for industry disruptions. The key is to improve your operations while defining your transformation journey.

Some of the ways industry 4.0 technology can benefit your operation are:

  • Heightened performance visibility through the implementation of Industrial IoT sensors that relay real time data performance, location, and maintenance needs
  • Predictive maintenance schedules driven by analytical tools  that reduce the down time associated with machine failures
  • Augmented reality that supports workers on the shop floor with real time guidance and safety guidelines
  • Machine learning with self-improving algorithms that maximize efficiency
  • Robotics and data analytics that are bolstered by Artificial Intelligence

Enhance Digital Manufacturing Capabilities with Stefanini

Developing digital manufacturing capabilities requires a careful examination of the existing components and features that make a production line successful. Stefanini is ready to bring the latest and best digital tools needed to optimize your operation.

Our team of experts will examine your processes and use their knowledge to find the technology that meets the unique concerns of any production line. Ready to get started? Contact us today to speak with an expert!

Ready to consult with a Stefanini expert?

Our team of experts will examine your processes and use their knowledge to find the technology that meets the unique concerns of any production line. 

Contact us today to speak with an expert!

Ready to unlock Industry 4.0 benefits and transform your business?