Publication | Annual Reviews in Control 2021

Monitoring on a shoestring

Low cost solutions for digital manufacturing

Digital transformation is currently very important issue within the manufacturing sector and across the business spectrum. Many companies are eager to embrace the benefits that it is promised to offer such as improved efficiency and the potential for business growth.

Many reports have identified the slow take up of digital transformation in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), because of the high entry costs. In particular, 59% of companies cite very high investment and the difficulty in justifying their return on investment as the major obstacle. For example, multinational corporations (MNCs) can invest in digital manufacturing solutions from such technology providers as MachineMetrics or Tulip which charge $1,200 per machine per year. However, this price range might be unaffordable for most of the SME workshops that pay $495 per year for Fusion 360 license.

The intent of this project is to develop a pathway for digital engagement that even the smallest SME can consider and in doing so to transform SMEs into highly efficient digitally-enabled manufacturing businesses that can utilize available data to continuously improve performance, retain knowledge and manage uncertainty. It seeks to exploit the very lowest cost commercially available technologies for mobile computing, sensing, micro processing, communicating and AI to tackle the challenges associated with integrating these safely and securely into a small-scale manufacturing environment.

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Abstract

Monitoring on a shoestring: Low cost solutions for digital manufacturing

Gregory Hawkridge, Anandarup Mukherjee, Duncan McFarlane, Yedige Tlegenov, Ajith K Parlikad, Nicholas J Reyner, Alan Thorne

Annual Reviews in Control 2021

Digital transformation can provide a competitive edge for many manufacturers, however many smaller companies may not have the capabilities needed to embrace this opportunity and may be left behind. This paper reports on an approach which is attempting to alleviate this by creating a low-cost pathway to help manufacturing small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) engage with digitalization. This paper focuses on industrial monitoring and explores the potential for developing simple monitoring systems that solve real operation challenges in SMEs using low-cost, off-the-shelf technologies. A blueprint for developing such systems is presented and then exemplified through a case study system. The paper concludes that low-cost monitoring can be feasible given the right application and operating environment.

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