The automation of manufacturing processes has historically been hardware-centric. Although there are out-of-the-box, integrated hardware and software solutions for single steps in the overall manufacturing process, this hardware-oriented approach for automating the entire assembly process has typically resulted in bespoke solutions for a specific product configuration. These solutions are not often flexible enough to adapt to changes to products, components, supply chains, or demand. In addition, custom automation solutions implemented at different times can lack standardization. Thus, any changes often require the help of system integrators and limits the ability of the manufacturer to support these deployments themselves. This has resulted in a slower-than-expected adoption of automation solutions within manufacturing.
A Software-Defined Future for Manufacturing
Our vision is to flip this hardware-centric approach on its head and start with software at the center of the automation stack. When powered by data, computer vision, well-defined device interfaces, and a no/low code environment integrated with standardized hardware, software can address the potential variations and changes in the manufacturing processes. This approach is wildly different from hardware controlling how assembly lines are operated.
Today, with the launch of Brightware® Studio, we continue on our path to deliver a software-first approach to manufacturing automation. The new functionality — built on top of the Brightware Platform — will free manufacturers from the constraints of traditional factory automation by providing a self-service capability that enables smart automation alongside speed to market and lower operating costs.
Democratizing Manufacturing Automation
By offering a modern, low/no-code workflow, Brightware Studio allows line operators and technicians to configure the assembly process with greater ease. This enables workers with limited automation expertise to, for instance, tweak the production recipe or make adjustments on the assembly line. As a result, manufacturers can leverage their existing workforce and hire people more easily to manage these automated lines since they don’t need deep technical skills. The timing for this could not be better. The manufacturing industry’s key challenge today is around how to deal with open roles that are hard to fill; this year alone, 46% of open positions have remained unfilled due to a mismatch in skills.
In the U.S. alone, the cost of hiring trained automation engineers has trended upwards as firms compete for a small talent pool. Brightware Studio permits employers to hire from a different pool, a significant departure from today’s hiring process.
Finally, training a new user on an automation line is easier with Brightware Studio. The no/low code environment and standardized and context-specific workflows make the onboarding process very easy. Amid pressures to build products to keep up with elevated demand, shortening product life cycles, and existing hiring woes, the people working in manufacturing must be given the tools to respond to these market dynamics.
Driving Process Improvements
Brightware Studio offers the simplicity that workers and their leaders need, providing complete visibility into process, equipment, and product data for every Bright Machines® Microfactory deployment from day one. The data collection, mapping to a semantic model, and metric definition of the product offering drive on-prem analytics for various roles on the production line.
Current workflows and visualization tools support use cases such as process and equipment monitoring, product traceability, alerts, and notifications. Further, the analytics layer allows people on the production line to run ad-hoc queries, set up custom alerts, and create customized dashboards. Access to this unified and labeled data and pre-built analytics helps manufacturers drive higher uptime and improve production processes. The standardization of data modeling and collection, tight integration with the microfactory, and role-based insights that are part of the product offering should significantly reduce the time to value for the customers and power data-driven decisions across their line operations.
At Bright Machines, our vision is to transform the industry with software-defined manufacturing. Brightware Studio accelerates this vision allowing companies to augment their workforces’ abilities on the production line with self-service capabilities. The combination of the no/low code environment with out-of-the-box, data-driven insights and analysis will help manufacturers increase the ROI of their investments in automation, enable cost-effective reshoring strategies, drive process standardization across a global footprint, and provide a set of tools for continuous process improvements and responding to supply chain changes without relying on system integrators or other vendors. This next step in liberating factory automation will help companies find greater success now and in the future.