Every revolution has a vision. The ideal that should come at the end of the upheaval in the wake of Industry 4.0 is the Smart Factory and the networking of the entire value chain. A production environment in which people, machines, products and other intelligent systems are networked and communicate with each other. This creates new possibilities for the type of production and new relationships. But what makes a smart factory and what does the intelligent factory of the future look like?
So far, the smart factories are still in the starting blocks. Individual work steps are often automated, a whole work or even entire value creation structures usually not yet. If you take a look at the factories, there is a tendency to see that smart factories will provide most of the added value in the near future. At the moment, however, the common semantic basis, such as a universal production language, is still missing. OPC-UA as a mature standard would be conceivable as a basis here.
Manufacturing Service Bus – the Orchestra Industry 4.0 Engine
In addition to this standard helps a Manufacturing Service Bus (MSB), such as the Orchestra Industry 4.0 Engine. This is just as important for the basic networking of the various production plants, machines, people and systems. This is one of two major components of the smart factory. The MSB Orchestra Industry 4.0 Engine provides complete, vertical and horizontal integration with a single product. This allows the IT level to be linked to the plant level. The MSB provides all customers of production data, such as machines, people or systems, with information and thus ensures the networking of the entire value chain. This is how the automation pyramid is a thing of the past. Intelligent networking creates an open environment in which all systems can be connected.
In addition to networking, the cyber-physical systems (CPS), as the second core component, play an important role. These link real objects with information processing objects and processes. The entire components within this production communicate in practice via the Internet of Things. This is a powerful and wireless communication technology, and big-data technologies, such as cloud computing services for processing makes sense. Based on this information, the individual production steps are controlled to the desired final result.
From individual mass production to lot size 1
The production itself is divided into internal networking, ie the connection of plants and machines, and into external networking. Ideally, networking with other smart factories, but also with external systems. For example, the logistics system can be efficiently controlled. The transporter reports signals about the duration of the delivery time or ordering processes run more optimally. The warehouse just sends a message as soon as a need exists and orders automatically from the supplier.
The flexible combination of systems and factories allows companies to move away from traditional mass production and move to individual production – at the same price as mass production. In addition to the cost factor, the general production time in a factory of the future is shortened. The result is transparency across the entire value chain, as the product always has information about where it comes from and where it needs to go.
The human in the smart factory
The role of humans in the smart factory is also changing. Until now, humans controlled and operated the machines and plants. In the Smart Factory, the products themselves handle the operation. Humans, on the other hand, must therefore take care of the control and optimization of production and no longer actively intervene. He also coordinates interfaces to external systems. This is how the machines help people and that creates more flexibility. However, a rethink is required, such as the further qualification of the employee is important in order to fully exploit the new technologies.