Smart Factory – Planning a Future-Proof Factory

Smart factories are not made in a day. When a factory is being built from scratch or upgraded, the process of becoming “smart” takes place in several stages. The four-phase model developed by Ingenics AG can support small, medium-sized, and large projects such as the construction of a new factory on a greenfield site. Efficient use of space and efficient processes are top priorities for companies. However, digitization should be considered from the start when these kinds of projects are planned and carried out in stages.

What is a Smart Factory?

The Smart Factory is the center of Industry 4.0 and refers to a production environment with comprehensive networking (Production 4.0). It corresponds to the fourth evolutionary stage of the factory. Within Production 4.0, the holistic value creation process takes place autonomously under a very high degree of automation and organizes itself for the most part (Value Creation 4.0). Value creation is supported by intelligent logistics, which provides the necessary processes and materials in a highly flexible manner (Logistics 4.0). A key component of end-to-end networking is the Internet of Things (IoT), which provides the technological framework. 

What Challenges and Obstacles Do Customers Face Today When Planning a Digital Factory?

We are currently at a threshold where it is theoretically possible for the systems to control themselves. Nevertheless, the reality varies in many companies.

Although there has been talk for years of Industry 4.0, the “Internet of Things” (IoT), and supporting robots, many companies are still in the early stages of digital transformation. For example, it is possible to access and evaluate internal data in real time and thus ensure efficient control of your own factory or production site. The technology exists but turning ideas into reality presents a challenge for many companies. 

A smart factory can make your plant fit for the future and lead to boosted enhanced efficiency in the long term.

We can help you answer the following questions:

  • Where does my company stand today with regard to digitization and smart factories?
  • How can I turn ideas surrounding digital transformation into a business reality?
  • How can I digitize and automate production and logistics, making them sustainable, flexible, and efficient? 
  • What are the advantages of a smart factory for my organization?
  • What could my factory look like in five years, and how will it operate?

Are You Already Familiar with the Mini-Factory Approach?


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What are the Prerequisites When It Comes to Getting Started with a Smart Factory?

The following basic principles and requirements create the foundation for a smart factory and make it possible to build on each stage. 

  • Established efficient processes and implemented lean approaches (value stream, flow orientation, pull, etc.).
  • Implementation of standardized processes, data standards, and master data parameters.
  • The value stream and factory environment are free from waste and are characterized by clearly defined processes. 

We would provide guidance in identifying areas of opportunity.
 

“Companies have to have staying power, and this does not happen overnight. In our experience, SMEs in particular are driving enormous initial investments, and these are growing every day. That can be fatal because it is important as a first step to establish the basic requirements for specific digital applications based on profitable use cases.”

Stefan Flicke
Partner, Director Key Account, Ingenics AG

The Four Stages of a Smart Factory – In Summary

Smart factories are not created overnight. The process of becoming “smart” takes place in several stages, as explained below.

Stage 1: Transparent Factory

  • Standardization begins to take effect and leads to the development of use cases, some of which are implemented.
  • Data and processes can be presented retrospectively using systems and analysis (business intelligence tools and process mining).
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs) are defined in order to quantify the performance of the organization (value creation, order to cash, operations).
  • The first automation solutions or cyber-physical systems are set up in pilot projects.
  • Data collection from peripheral processes begins (e.g. building technology or upstream stages in the value and logistics chain).

Stage 2: Responsive Factory

  • The degree of standardization and the speed of data availability reach levels that make it possible to intervene and control processes.
  • With clearly defined data sets, information can be used efficiently, in near real time, and without data breaks on other systems.
  • By using algorithms, data evaluation is no longer just a matter of human interpretation. Data controlling is still the responsibility of those working in the factory.
  • There is increasing integration and automation of physical and information processes. This already extends beyond broad but firmly defined sub-areas.
  • It is possible to cascade and link data from process and peripheral processes (e.g. building technology and supply chain), and this information can be evaluated.

Stage 3: Predictive Factory

  • The availability and stringency of data is at a level that allows extensive data sets to be combined, networked, and analyzed.
  • The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and simulations supports human decision-making processes so that action can be taken based on proposed solutions. These suggestions are based on rules specified by people and system optimization is carried out in feedback loops with and by people.
  • Such interventions and decisions are carried out vis-à-vis processes and process-related control systems, leading to tangible action. This could range from dispatching orders and capacity leveling to system controls and the control of physical interlinking systems.
  • The number of measuring points reaches a new scale at this stage. With a wide range of parameters being processed, simulated scenarios can be carried out. Big data analysis can be used to identify patterns that remain unnoticed by humans. Working on the basis of these patterns, process parameters can be optimized in order to raise the efficiency and quality of products to a significantly higher level.
     

Stage 4: Smart Factory

  • Similar to the predictive factory, data and activities are analyzed and evaluated in real time. However, most of the decision-making power is no longer in human hands. While intervention by employees is possible at any time, it is only mandated and necessary in special circumstances.
  • Systems and control loops optimize themselves independently using the same algorithm as in a predictive factory and also make independent decisions within a defined scope of activity.
  • Human actions and decisions are supported by digital assistants or robots that suggest measures to achieve optimum efficiency and quality.
  • At this stage, in many areas employees can enjoy a high level of flexibility in terms of where they work. Value stream controlling value is autonomous and interventions and decisions can be made remotely.

 

Short of time right now?

Here you can find the 4 steps of the Smart Factory as a printable PDF. (936 KB)

What are the Advantages of Working with Ingenics on the Smart Factory Concept?

No “digital” without “lean”

  • Gain clarity about what is possible in the areas of digital transformation and digital factory planning in relation to your factory.
  • Learn about the path towards a smart factory as well as the opportunities that lead to becoming a future-proof factory in the long term.
  • Get up to speed on data handling to create transparency in your company, making it possible to attain a high degree of automation in factory control.

We offer support and expert knowledge together with experience in the mini factory approach as well as the implementation of digital transformation projects in operations.

Conclusion

Anyone intending to establish a smart factory should set appropriate expectations and avoid rushing. By progressing one step at a time, companies can keep risks low.

We would be pleased to offer support and advice as you move towards a smart factory.
 

Why not make an appointment for your first consultation today? We look forward to taking the next step with you toward creating your intelligent factory.

Stefan Flicke

Stefan Flicke

Partner, Director Key Account
Phone: +49 731 93680 224