In industrial supply chains, goods can be tracked around the world providing data that is transforming supply chain management. In infrastructure, construction components can be automatically tracked and their properties sensed, leading to better asset performance over the life cycle. In manufacturing and services, better use of information can drastically improve operational performance. These radical new capabilities are opening up opportunities to provide dynamic services and smart products.
By linking computer networks to sensors and identification technologies, such as radio frequency identification (RFID), almost any information about an individual product or component can be obtained in real time – from its current temperature to when, how and where it was made. This worldwide traceability of components and finished goods can be used to identify product failures, support innovative service offerings or meet legislative requirements. Inventory counts and lost shipments are potentially things of the past as firms know exactly how much material is in the supply chain or on the store shelf.
These new capabilities are also helping firms to meet a growing demand for mass-customised products and services – supported by automated production systems that are becoming much more flexible and responsive. Using intelligent software, machines and customer orders can ‘co-operate’ with each other to decide how to rapidly reconfigure manufacturing, logistics and service systems in order to meet consumer demand or to overcome unexpected problems.
The Distributed Information and Automation Laboratory (DIAL) is concerned with helping companies take advantage of this exciting new era by:
- developing distributed automated solutions for manufacturing and logistics
- exploiting the key enabling technology of RFID and other smart sensors
- applying smart technologies in manufacturing, logistics and services
- futureproofing by assessing industrial responsiveness
- quantifying the value of improved information for better decision making
- reconfiguring industrial systems and operations
- improving whole-life management of industrial assets
Duncan McFarlane, Professor of Industrial Information Engineering and head of the IfM’s Distributed Information & Automation Laboratory (DIAL), and members of his research team have been working with Boeing since 2005...