The world of manufacturing is changing as automation through the use of robotics and other technologies is helping to make production operations more efficient and reliable, and accommodate shopfloor labour shortages. Individual production cells are frequently linked together and, using smart sensors, provide information sharing up the control hierarchy through the use of modern control systems.

Automation and digitisation
Technology Writers have written extensively about the modern automated world and the digitisation of information sharing to enable more effective control and monitoring of production lines and individual items of equipment.

It starts with smart sensors on equipment connected to shopfloor programmable logic controllers (PLCs). These are linked through digital communications protocols and Distributed Control Systems (DCSs) to ‘middleware’, such as Manufacturing Execution Systems (MESs) and then to higher level Materials Resource Planning (MRP) and top level business-wide Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems.

Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)
On the factory shopfloor, production workers and staff are being upskilled to take on frontline maintenance activities though methodologies such as Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and Six Sigma as companies attempt to raise their Operational Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) levels in search of world-class manufacturing standards.