The Future of Smart Factory
The world moves forward improving the working processes through digitalisation. Integrating the industries into data-driven and data control organisation becomes essential to keep the pace with the clients and competitors.
Since the end of the 18th-century industrial evolution has performed three revolutionary steps. 1784 brought first mechanical loom through an introduction of mechanical production facilities powered by water and steam. Next phase at the beginning of 20th-century was the electricity implementation, which in the 70s evolved into electronics and IT and heavy-duty industrial robots for a further automatization of production. All the steps before were needed to bring manufacturing to the next stage of development - Industrial Revolution based on Cyber-Physical production systems.
Foreseeing the future trends Germany launched the Industry 4.0: Smart, Green and Urban production. Developed by the brightest minds of German professors and supported by government project was approved in 2012. Its purpose is to draft comprehensive strategic recommendations for implementing "Industry 4.0". "Industry 4.0" was conceived as a forward-looking project under the Federal Government's High-Tech Strategy, focussing on information and communication technology (informatics). It has been developed further to include production research and user industries. Supported by the government project received the investments in numbers of €500 million. Focusing on creating the Smart Factories, the intelligent production systems, and processes and the realization of distributed and networked production sites, the project is expected to bring solutions in the implementation of 3D tools as well.
The threat of losing 605 billion euros in foregone value added instead of adding 1.25 trillion euros in gross value of manufacturing industry is a high motivation for Europe to reinvent the industry. EU parliament followed the German lead and organised the workshops to pursue the digitalisation of industries. If to believe EU Commission website, the 6th workshop for Digitising European industries and enterprises has taken place earlier this year. The seminar was split into two parts. The first one followed the results of government-led investment programs like Industry 4.0. The creation of ecosystems playing roles in the digitalisation of companies showed the stimulation of the technology cluster. The second part was devoted to discussing the beneficence of the Internet of Things and robotic implementation in manufacturing. The questioned was how to build the technical platforms for the industry, further elaboration on customer experience for mass customization as well as the role of SMEs in the digitisation of European industry.
raises the bar
Inspired by science fiction and efficiency ambitions, designers visualize a connected factory as a wireless independent entity. Ideally, raw materials transform to the end product autonomously communicating with machines. The advanced Internet of Things is predicted to convert the manufacturing industry already in 10 years. However, the first successful attempts of Intelligent factories can be witnesses today.
Automotive industry implements the Internet of Things and improves the sustainability and efficiency performance. Namely, the Toyota invests in green building and renewable sources of energy (Click here to read about Toyota reaching the benchmark in sustainable manufacturing). At the same time, Audi establishes its devotion is to become the advanced connected production leader. Audi’s vision for the future encompasses collaborative robots, 3D printing and cars driven from the assembly line in piloted mode. People working close with the robots, machines cooperating with machines is not the science fiction anymore.
MNCs and Indian companies caught the wave of opportunity and started to invest in Smart Factories. The intelligent plants combine machine-to-machine communication, remote monitoring and diagnostics systems, industrial Interner and Big Data. In his interview with Business Today, Jeffrey W. Connelly, Vice President of GE's Global Supply Chain, says: "Smart factories are at the intersection of hardware and software. It is exactly what 3D printing is, monitoring and diagnostics is, sensing technology is. We call it 'predictivity'. In the world of manufacturing, it is having the ability through data to know things before they happen." Indeed, Indian step forward brought them to the leaders of manufacturing industry. Cooperating with Cisco, Mahindra Vehicle Manufacturer is a "totally integrated factory", from the top floor to the shop floor. All the machines are connected to the central server, providing the computers with valuable data for production controlling and improvement. The manufacturing execution system has multiple tasks like order management, shop tracking, error proofing, reports and dashboards, traceability, asset management and interface to the other systems. Another German automotive Volkswagen's India plant has over a hundred german-made robots and a number of machines which are interconnected. Overall the Internet of Things develops rapidly increasing the influence of the mini-sensors on our life.
are all of us
Who will benefit from such changes? First who comes to mind is sensor manufacturers. Indeed, mini-connectors will provide the interaction between the materials, robots, computers, and humans. Every factory will need the little things to establish the best connection and the sensor market and nanotechnologies will show a significant increase in the nearest future. Second beneficiaries are engineers. The work and processes the experts will have to compute are enormous. Technology designers have to gather all their knowledge, break all the chains between them, and, eventually, build a new bridges reinventing the whole manufacturing process. As the result, the entire manufacturing and services industries are going to benefit altogether. Moreover, in this race of establishing the Smart and efficient factory winner is not so much the company, but the country it is located in. The Smart factory implies resource efficiency, improved productivity, predictive maintenance, and the creation of new working places.
The future of the industries all around the world is the fast coming revolution. Manufacturing will turn into the autonomous, robotic, smart interaction of the processes and things, which will allow to reinvent the understanding of the industry from the basics.
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