Dr. Heiner Lang, Senior Vice President at Bosch Rexroth AG, discusses the future of smart manufacturing for large-scale industry – and looks at what’s already available for smaller manufacturers.
If you’re planning on attending Hannover Messe this year, you’ll discover that one of the main contentions is that to a certain extent, the Factory of the Future is a misnomer. It’s true that certain elements of Industry 4.0 are still conceptual, but others are very much present in the here-and-now.
Realising technical ambitions
Work is already well underway to turn ambitions for the Factory of the Future into reality. Take the concept of the ‘digital twin’ - a key element of smart manufacturing that is currently in its infancy. The ‘digital twin’ provides you with a virtual replica of your entire physical factory, which larger manufacturers and OEMs can use for offline test and development.
The digital twin aims to reflect its counterpart in the real world - allowing manufacturers to measure performance as they would a factory-floor machine. This means, when production is switched to the physical twin, there will be no changes, no surprises, no wrong set-ups or false starts. The first physical product will be right – and in an increasingly flexible, customized and customer-driven environment, it will need to be.
As a smaller manufacturer, you will also be able to use the technology to test concepts and their associated schedules and costs – and because you carry less baggage, you may be first to market with physical production.
Smaller manufacturers may also benefit from smart manufacturing developments that are already available. Innovations such as our eTools configurator that can be used to design products, and to see how they can be delivered. Small businesses can gauge price, quality and customer requirements, before they invest a penny in the physical world.
Right here. Right now
Another key area in which your business can realise its vision of the Factory of the Future todays is through readily available distributed intelligence. This enables production machines to assess themselves, share information with other equipment, and make their own consensus-based decisions.
Your next step could be our starter kit – that provides manufacturers with 10 to 15 sensors to attach to factory-floor machines and the IoT (Internet of Things). Gateways that collect data from these sensors and stream it to the cloud for analysis and management are a valuable starting point for smart production that can be fitted and active by lunchtime. Once you’ve experienced the kit and seen the patterns and the possibilities - you will be ready to turn you manufacturing vision into reality.
In fact, you could safely say your Factory of the Future is the factory of the here-and-now.
Dr Lang heads up the Automation & Electrification Solutions Business Unit at Bosch Rexroth.
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