By Michael Colarossi, Vice President, Innovation, Product Line Management, and Sustainability, RBIS, Avery Dennison
The potential for smart manufacturing, or ‘Manufacturing 4.0’ processes, to power up production-line efficiency, and support sustainability is driving a new industrial age. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, cloud, big data, 3D printing, digital twins and the Internet of Things (IoT) are predicted to drive growth, with one estimate suggesting the value of the global smart manufacturing market will swell from US$ 277.8 billion today, to US$ 658.4 billion in 2029.
Companies producing anything from footwear to fertilizers can utilise these tech innovations to boost their performance. But what exactly is being achieved and how?
AI for manufacturing optimisation
Smart manufacturing is largely about connecting processes digitally with other networks, enabling machines to automate and produce independently and ultra-efficiently. Tasks can become more efficient and effective, leveraging data to drive better decision-making. Whether that’s in the production of physical goods, or quality checks, or communication with downstream suppliers, it’s the connectivity that counts.
AI and machine learning can help manufacturers monitor operations in real-time, spot inefficiencies as and when they occur, and forecast accurate delivery dates. At Avery Dennison, we are exploring how analytics can optimise quality and product development, using data to focus quality control on key failure points or improve how we design and test products.
One finding is that digital twin visualisation technology can be paired with sensors on the factory floor, helping us gather vital information on production processes. The information collected via smart manufacturing systems can be incorporated into visual, interactive models. These models can really help teams drive innovation. Digital Twin technology is also expected to revolutionise the apparel industry, because with a digital version of each product, connected to a cloud data platform, a huge amount of information can be accessed by everyone from the garment’s owner, to textile recyclers, helping extend the life of that item. This will be central to facilitating the circular economy for fashion, so urgently needed today.
Meanwhile, AI systems enable predictive analytics, which can address operational challenges and disruptions to supply chains. McKinsey research suggests that AI can improve forecasting accuracy in manufacturing by 10-20%, which translates to a 5% reduction in inventory costs and a 2-3% increase in revenues.
By employing AI-based measures, one can optimise production floor uptime, increase equipment effectiveness, and minimise production losses and defects. This is typically achieved by installing AI-based condition-monitoring sensors onto critical assets to collect and relay real-time performance data.
Technicians can then use the data analytics to pinpoint defective parts and eliminate common equipment failures, for example. Advanced predictive models can estimate when failures are most likely to happen, and recommend appropriate timelines to perform corrective measures. This allows manufacturers to organise their production schedules based on predicted equipment availability, which will boost productivity and shave off downtime.
Customer focus should drive digitalisation
Certainly, here at Avery Dennison we’re acutely aware of how digitalisation, automation and AI technologies are revolutionising how equipment and humans operate on the manufacturing shop floor. By leveraging data more effectively, we can plan better, source better, execute better, cut waste, and – best of all – get products to market faster. Technology can also directly assist employees in our manufacturing facilities, enabling them to focus on the quality of the products produced, for example.
We’re also excited that industrial engineers are able to incorporate these technologies into designing and fabricating advanced manufacturing systems that will produce goods in the most sustainable ways possible.
Our core concern is: “How will digitalising manufacturing help us be more effective in servicing our customers?” A big win for the fashion, pharma and food companies we work with, is that digitalising our platforms can both enhance the service levels they enjoy, and give customers far greater flexibility in how they operate and grow their businesses.
For example, we’ve embraced digital sampling, partnering with external organisations to eliminate the lengthy and wasteful process of physical samples in apparel production. We’ve adopted 3D manufacturing in some cases, to produce prototype parts for clients to test in their manufacturing processes. While some of these enhancements remain in the testing stage, the ambition is to bring them to scale in an industrial manufacturing setting.
Smart manufacturing is a good look for fashion
Avery Dennison RBIS supplies the clothing industry with care labels, tags, packaging and embellishments like brand logo badges and sports shirt numbers (heat transfers). To do this we need to operate a very flexible manufacturing model, because virtually everything we produce must be tailored to specific client needs. Digitisation is incredibly helpful in the customisation process, speeding up what we can deliver. A lot of our output is also highly time and demand-sensitive, so it makes sense for us to be able to make products in line with the client brands’ essential just-in-time strategies. And in recent years we’ve developed software platforms and hardware that enables our customers to make their own products on demand at their own facilities, for instance, heat-transfer applications on t-shirts.
Smart manufacturing is also about developing innovative products. I’m especially proud of what we’ve achieved with intelligent labels for the apparel sector. This is a suite of IoT-enabling technologies that authenticate product history, provide tracking and inventory solutions and conjure richer consumer encounters, simply by scanning a QR code on a care label with a smartphone and accessing online information. We’re operating today in a world of big data and massive amounts of information, so intelligent labels help create certainty, showing how a connected world can be a better world, full of greater possibilities.
Today Avery Dennison is the official supplier for names, numbers and sleeve badges for the Premier League. The agreement places emphasis on technology and sustainability and will see Avery Dennison use technology to increase efficiency and sustainability through reduced waste, using water-based inks, and creating a “closed loop” configuration whereby plastics used in the application of the product are collected and can re-enter the supply chain.
As many of our collaborative projects have shown, digital IDs and transparency regarding the material make-up of garments will help textile recyclers carry out their essential work, ultimately reducing textile waste. There must be a digital twin for every item, for this model to be comprehensively managed on a global scale, and this is what we are working towards with our intelligent labels.
Leveraging data is the future
In terms of Manufacturing 4.0 truly taking the world by storm, we’re not there yet. Manufacturer data analysis is still in its infancy today. While most businesses understand the value of gathering data from their machines, and sharing data about their products and inventory, much of that valuable information is still underused. The sooner companies of all sizes master data interpretation and invest in smart manufacturing models, the sooner more value can be created on the shop floor. This will lead to carbon-efficient ways of working, greater safety and more productivity. I believe we’ve merely seen the tip of the iceberg – the best is yet to come.