Exploring the Potential and Challenges of Smart Factories at PTC LiveWorx 2023

At PTC LiveWorx, Cambashi’s Peter Maskell and Petra Gartzen had the opportunity to explore the potential of Smart Factories. They delved into the experience of a smart factory demonstration at the PTC LiveWorx 2023 conference, highlighting both the potential and notable challenges associated with this technology. 

During the demonstration, participants were guided through the process of building a skateboard using smart factory technology. Every step of the assembly was facilitated by technology-enabled devices and PTC ThingWorx software. The computer screen displayed the sequential instructions, and video tutorials provided detailed guidance for each step. The system then directed users to choose the appropriate components for each step, by leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) enabled sensors. These sensors illuminated and recorded the user’s selection from the correct boxes, flagging any incorrect choices on the system. Steps that required tool usage, also utilized the capabilities of IoT by applying settings in real-time such as torque levels on a screwdriver. 

While the potential for smart factories to enhance productivity and minimize errors is evident, there are certain considerations to address. For smaller companies the setup costs, technical expertise, and hardware and network requirements may present a significant barrier to entry. Connectivity issues can bring operations to a halt, as evidenced by the unreliable internet connection during the demonstration. Some organizations may opt for local servers and edge computing to mitigate the reliance on cloud connectivity, but this adds to the financial burden of implementation. Additionally, the constant monitoring and time constraints imposed by the technology can create stress for employees. Striking a balance between utilizing data for business improvement and respecting workers’ well-being is crucial to ensuring a positive work environment. 

Furthermore, realizing the full benefits of smart factories hinges on the ability to effectively analyze the vast amount of data generated. Skilled professionals are required to interpret the analytics and identify areas for improvement, streamlining processes, and optimizing assembly lines. Collaboration between teams, such as design and manufacturing, is essential to address bottlenecks and inefficiencies indicated by the collected data.

Cambashi’s conclusionary observations are firstly – smart factories offer tremendous potential for enhancing productivity, reducing errors in manufacturing processes and accelerating workforce training. By leveraging data-driven insights, manufacturers can identify areas for improvement and collaborate with design teams to refine product designs and streamline production processes. That said, our viewpoint is that the challenges surrounding connectivity, worker stress, costs, and data analysis must be carefully addressed for successful implementation. For leadership teams this is not always easy to achieve in an optimal way.

PTC provided Cambashi with flights and accommodation to attend LiveWorx 2023. All Cambashi commentary and analysis is independent.

The images and slides used were all taken by Peter Maskell and Petra Gartzen

Leave a Reply

Shopping Cart