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10 PCB007 MAGAZINE I FEBRUARY 2020 Feature by Happy Holden I-CONNECT007 "Smart factory" is another phrase that de- scribes Industry 4.0 programs. These programs seem to have replaced CIM and CAM, but it did not make them obsolete. While these top- ics are getting a lot of press, there is nothing new about them. We have been on a journey to automate manufacturing since the mid-'70s. What has evolved are faster and cheaper com- puters, and more complex and integrated network- ing. Meanwhile, the cost of wireless communica- tions has dropped dra- matically and labor and materials costs have gone up. These conditions all foster a greater return for automation, with the possibility of lights-out factories with no environ- mental impact, leading to "lean and green" imple- mentations. Strategy and Planning What hasn't changed over all these years is the need for a strategic plan to achieve a smart fac- tory. While the invest- ment in automation may be straightforward, the investment in integrating all these islands of au- tomation clearly is not. The strategic planning for this integration is the major topic in the smart factory. Networking has advanced so much in the intervening years that it has now become an over-riding element of the new smart factory. These elements were introduced in the free I-Connect007 eBook Automation and Ad- vanced Procedures in PCB Fabrication. Figure 1 shows the six stages of planning a smart factory. Most of the elements will be your current equipment and any new islands of automation. The arrows are of significance, as they outline the flow of information that The Smart Factory: All the Bits and Bobs Figure 1: The first priority is to establish a strategy for what your smart factory will look like and how it will operate.

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