When you talk about Industry 4.0, this also includes the Smart Factory. What seems to be simple at first, is in reality more complex than you might think. Smart Factory means a concept that describes the application of various combinations of modern technologies to create a hyper-flexible and self-adapting production facility.
The Smart Factory is thus a crucial component of current and future intelligent production, which in turn enables and drives the digital supply chain and Industry 4.0 initiatives.
So what does such a Smart Factory look like, and how does it work? Smart factories are filled with sensors, highly automated, and can organize themselves automatically. The systems work intelligently and continuously in order to optimize productivity and quality. This is usually made possible by what is known as a cyber physical system, as well as the intelligent networking of machines and products.
The product itself communicates the information required for production to the Smart Factory – and this information is used to control the individual production steps until the desired end result is achieved. Previously unimaginable new possibilities for wireless communication within a Smart Factory are emerging, particularly in connection with IoT and the spread of 5G.
Of course, production and the Smart Factory do not stop at the boundaries of the production site. Automobile manufacturers, and their suppliers in particular have large, widely ramified supplier networks – and end-to-end digitalization as well as transparent data evaluation of the supply chain is particularly important here. As a result, the Smart Factory must also be linked to Supply Chain 4.0 in order to be able to act in an all-round automated and intelligent manner.
It is only through the digital footprint of a product, a process, or the machines used, known as the Digital Twin, and the data it contains, that a Smart Factory can be truly intelligent and able to carry out evaluations and simulations for possible production scenarios. And all of this is done in virtual space, without having to intervene in and influence real processes.
Possible errors can be detected in advance (Predictive/ Prescriptive Analytics) before they are applied to the physical processes. In addition, a central strength of a Digital Twin is the corresponding visualization and simulation of the data.
This also means thinking a step ahead: a Smart Factory also involves knowing about and analyzing all possible events in production at all times and thus always being two steps ahead. Sophisticated algorithms are then used to determine which events are highly likely to occur and are passed on to human operators, for example.
Ideally, all materials, every component and every product should always be in the right place at exactly the right time and can be processed immediately.
The central role of software is of course undisputed: it is what makes production and logistics into a coherent system. But even a Smart Factory is not possible without a human factor. No matter how sophisticated the technology may be, the machines still need the “human touch.”
That’s why we at Germanedge believe that the future of production lies in a Smart Factory that combines state-of-the-art technologies with highly flexible and self-adapting manufacturing capabilities with a focus on people as the drivers of Industry 4.0.
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Head of Sales Germanedge