The Factory of the Future: Taking stock


In the first of two posts, our Chairman, Rolf Najork, looks at recent progress in digital manufacturing, and considers the latest trends.

The Rexroth technology roadmap

At Rexroth, we’ve been working hard to create the Factory of the Future (which will achieve greater flexibility in production, while still maintaining high levels of quality and affordability) and I’m proud of the new products we’re bringing to market.

We have ActiveShuttle, our autonomous guided vehicle (AGV), and the intelligent control system that enables it to work flexibly in coordinated fleets, delivering boxed components from a central store to the production line. We’ll be offering it to the market this year, so watch this space!

We also have new connectivity solutions. Our new IoT Gateway device is very small and capable – and our Digital Nameplate devices are low-energy and affordable sensors that can be attached to pretty much anything. They use Bluetooth to communicate information such as the ambient temperature and humidity of their location, the acceleration to which they’re subject when the item to which they’re attached is on the move, and much more besides. With technologies like these, even small manufacturers, or companies on brownfield sites, can be up and running in hours. It’s very fast, and it’s very affordable.

We’re also introducing new levels of functionality to our preventative maintenance offer – and soon we’ll be able to say more about other exciting developments, including a new generation of automation control systems, and a manufacturing IoT backbone we’re developing with Bosch. When it’s ready, it will close the gap between central ERP systems and devices in the field – the kinds of device I mentioned just now. So, all in all, these are very exciting times.

Recent trends

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the greatest trend in manufacturing right now. We’ve recently been working with Bosch to apply it to Big Data analysis in a new welding system. We’re also seeing AI being used to optimize device performance.

Another interesting development is the emergence of IoT-based business models. Information being gathered on the factory floor and in the warehouse is now feeding into management systems, where it can be analyzed, interpreted and reshaped to explore new approaches to production, for example, or to supply chain management.

Finally, there’s the accelerating trend towards ever-more individualized products. Here at Bosch Rexroth, we’re very active in creating the flexible working environment with short changeovers that help to make it happen.

Customer benefits

Among our customers, we’re seeing entirely new ways of thinking about manufacturing. They don’t come to us simply to discuss products and technologies. They also want to collaborate with us to define broad new approaches to efficiency, to productivity, to cost.

We’re working with them on new manufacturing applications, and they’re coming to us because of our technical expertise and our systemic know-how. As we’re a company principally offering drives and controls, they don’t expect us to provide total systems – but they know we have the knowledge to help them create the environment, and that we can help them roll out new approaches on a broad scale. These are very exciting times.

Author: Rolf Najork
Job title: Member of the Bosch Board of Management and Chairman of Bosch Rexroth

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