Intelligent Manufacturing, Part 3: The Factories of the Future

The Factories of the Future-Already Operational and Making a Difference

The factory of the future appears to be making its way into the here and now. Just as Captain Kirk and the trusty team of the Enterprise had their own method of recording and analyzing all of the data that was available to them, the factory floor of today has the same capabilities and they are growing by leaps and bounds.

The Factory floor of an intelligent manufacturing factory may look a good deal different than what many of us are accustomed to seeing. Personnel moving here and there, machine noise, shouts for assistance on a given machine may all be factors that are missing in the near future. The shop floor of yesterday, replete with dozens of personnel necessary to operate the machinery required may be gone in the very near future, replaced by just one or two people who are carrying a tablet computer or a small hand held device that can offer them all that they need to know about what’s happening on the factory floor.

Software today assists many more modern factories to cut the need for more than half the personnel, making the factory able to be run more efficiently, manufacture better products and provide for a far lower space than is currently necessary to accommodate many human workers.

The tablet or pad computing systems today can provide for a full representation of every machine and every process and product taking shape on the factory floor. The different areas on the tablet can help to you to efficiently and immediately determine if the factory is humming along as scheduled and allow you to review alarms that may be warning you of imminent problems or machines not functioning to capacity. It may even tell you how to correct those problems, lowering your need for troubleshooting in the factory to get it back to peak efficiency operations. With one or two taps of the screen you can lower the speed of a machine, evaluate the estimated time to completion of a given process and even halt the process if necessary to correct a problem in the machinery.

You can determine down time, temperatures, pressure and many other aspects of the operating machinery without being anywhere near the area in which they are located.

In short, the factory floor of the future is something directly out of a Star Trek movie and it’s closer to being reality than you might think. Imagine being able to control it all from where you stand in your office, to protect people and products from injury and from unnecessary labor, all while cutting costs and providing a better product due to machine diagnosing machine. Imagine operating machinery more rapidly, more precisely and more cheaply than you can today.

The factory floor that you’ve just seen in your mind is the factory floor that is rapidly approaching, thanks to intelligent manufacturing and new software designs that let us do more with less effort and less money.
James Kemper is the president of W. H. Meanor & Associates, an executive placement & training company specializing in engineering & manufacturing careers. He can be reached at: or 704-372-7640 #102 or visit at

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