At a glance
Smart Factories or intelligent factories are at the heart of Industry 4.0: In a highly automated environment, plants and machines work independently to produce goods. Ideally, the smart factory works completely without human intervention in the production processes. Human employees nevertheless have a place in the smart factory, for example in monitoring and optimizing roles.
Smart Factory and the Internet of Things
In order for the production systems and machines in the intelligent factory to work independently, they must be networked with each other. Smart Factories make use of the (Industrial) Internet of Things to achieve effective networking of the smallest sensors right up to complete plants. Smart factories use various methods of wireless communication to enable the networking of individual devices, such as Bluetooth, RFID or Wi-Fi.
Big Data and Cloud Computing in the Smart Factory
For autonomous production, the smart factory needs above all a solid structure for the acquisition and processing of large amounts of data. After all, not only are the production processes based on digitally recorded specifications; during production, too, vast amounts of new data are constantly being generated that need to be analyzed, forwarded and stored. On the one hand, this data is used for internal communication in the production plant. Intelligent factories, for example, are equipped with countless sensors that monitor all the details of production. This data is indispensable for coordinating the automated process. In addition, a smart factory can analyze the data from previous production sequences in order to optimize its manufacturing processes. Big data and cloud computing technologies are used to deal with the flood of data efficiently and flexibly.
Advantages of intelligent factories
In direct comparison with conventional production, a smart factory offers many advantages.
Efficient production of single pieces
In a conventional factory, it is usually extremely expensive and time-consuming to have a single item produced according to individual specifications. The adjustment and set-up of the machines by human workers alone is time and cost intensive. Production in conventional factories therefore only becomes cost-effective from a certain batch size, often only from a number of pieces in the thousands. Smart Factories, on the other hand, perform these tasks independently and can adapt relatively quickly to constantly changing conditions. This highly flexible and quickly adaptable production is therefore also suitable for products where requirements could change spontaneously, e.g. due to changes in design or fluctuating demand.
- low personnel costs
- high delivery reliability
- increased productivity
- optimized processes in production
- optimized warehousing and logistics
- automated reordering of consumables on a consumption basis