We are living in an age of superheroes. They’re everywhere -- comics, movies, TV, video games -- regular people like you and me who through a twist of fate, fantasy, and futuristic technology acquire powers and abilities beyond nature. These imaginary super humans use their enhanced senses, intelligence, and strength to fight villians and make the world a better place.

Now would you believe me if I told you I work with and help empower new superheroes everyday? Really! That’s because we are also living in the digital age, where technologies are helping enable “super powers” for real people like you and me. These advancements are helping transform regular factories into smart factories for instance—factories of the future—and in turn helping workers become superheroes. No radioactive insect bites required. Here’s how.

Thanks to innovative technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) with its inexpensive sensors, fast data transmission, and connections to the cloud - management and operations staff in the factory of the future are equipped with enhanced powers of observation. Better than any funny-looking helmet, these tools give people access to superhuman amounts of data, then make it possible to quickly analyze and learn from it.

Like super friends banding together, different workers complement each other with their enhanced abilities. Some are able to sense what’s going on inside factory assets for real-time, condition-based monitoring. Some look into the future using predictive maintenance to anticipate when an asset will need a tune up. Others boost their powers using augmented reality (AR) to virtually see inside solid objects to troubleshoot issues. Yet others enjoy the power of being able to find anything, anyplace, anytime through sensor-enabled asset tracking.

New powers are realized in many corners of the factory of the future: power to direct assets to autonomously inspect themselves for quality, power to create objects from thin air—from drawing to reality—using digital product realization, and much more.

A proper band of superheroes also needs a command center—think the Batcave without the bats and preferably not in a cave. The factory of the future’s command center collects and displays real-time data on the performance of industrial assets deep in the manufacturing process to inform inventory planning and finished product delivery. Information about unexpected changes to an order can be used to instantly adjust labor utilization, revise volumes of raw materials, and modify shipping. In the command center, AR and interactive dashboards provide real-time insights, training and information to every superhero in the factory, providing end-to-end visibility of assets and processes, and helping the entire industrial operation be more efficient.

This factory of the future may not stop an asteroid to save the world, but it can connect and collect production data, giving our superheroes access to actionable insights, creating a more responsive, adaptive, and digitized supply chain that can lead to step-change improvements in performance.

Every great super story has its twist, and here it comes: everything I’ve just described is happening for real today in various enterprises. IoT and other technologies are helping transform us all into superheroes, endowing us with the enhanced senses, intelligence, and strength to perform superhuman feats all day, every day.

Welcome, future Supers, to your factory of the future. Please leave your capes at the door.

See a factory of the future in action! Visit Deloitte Digital’s booth (510) at Liveworx 2019 or get a preview by downloading our Virtual Factory mobile app for iOS or Android.

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