A desktop-sized learning factory shows how Industry 4.0 works. It is already used in many companies. The manufacturer uses it to simulate future scenarios in its own Innovation Lab.
“Produce red part,” calls Kim Mäder from the IT department. She works in the Innovation Lab in the IT department of the Fischer Group, which includes the world-famous fastening systems. In front of her is a model approximately 1 m wide and 1 m long, consisting of the usual Fischertechnik building blocks.
Hardly pronounced, the miniature factory sets itself in motion: A red building block — the product to be manufactured — is taken from the shelf in the warehouse, where various raw materials are stored. The goods are transported directly to the production line with a suction pad. There, the red building block passes through various production steps: Turning, milling, punching — one after the other is processed. Finally, the finished product is delivered to the high-bay warehouse and is ready for collection. “Our focus is on the simulation and demonstration of digitally networked applications in a real production environment,” says Guido Schubert. For two years he has been in charge of the newly founded ‘Industry’ sales division at Fischertechnik.
Voice-controlled production is one of the future scenarios currently being tested in the Fischer Innovation Lab. The IT department there is responsible for five company divisions — Fischertechnik is one of them.
Another scenario is the online ordering process, with which the complete processing of an order is replicated in batch size 1. Individual production is already being implemented in some sectors and is now gaining in importance in traditional mass production companies.
This is how it works at Fischer: A shopping situation is simulated on a dashboard, as almost everyone knows it from private use. The desired product is configured and placed in the shopping basket.
With the order, a transparent production process is set in motion. The buyer can follow the current status of the production of the desired product online and, of course, when it will be available. The individual production data are read out by sensors and actuators and transmitted via a cloud.
Displaying predictive maintenance intervals
But also maintenance and control of a production can be imitated with the small factory. With the data obtained, production processes become transparent and can also be monitored remotely. Have all production steps been carried out correctly?
The sensors in miniature production transmit the corresponding data. Do maintenance measures or even repairs have to be carried out? The respective information can be sent via a cloud to the smartphone of the responsible machine operator.
With intelligent data processing, predictive maintenance intervals can also be mapped. “It would also be possible to install a noise sensor that alerts a technician if the system makes unusual noises,” adds Kim Mäder, who, together with her team, is developing many ideas for further forward-looking projects while experimenting with the system. For example, the simulation of future logistics solutions is being considered — including intralogistics, for example. The commercial use of the generated data and connection to ERP systems, a software solution for controlling business processes, could also be simulated with the system.
Simulation provides impetus for actual implementation
“Here it becomes clear what is possible in the future and where it is worthwhile to continue investing. The simulation makes it clearer and more comprehensible what will be implemented first in reality,” reports Guido Schubert.
The industrial 4.0 factory in desktop format is used in companies such as SAP or IBM as well as at numerous universities, vocational schools and training companies.
Sandra Roth is a member of the corporate communications department of Fischerwerke GmbH & Co. KG in 72178 Waldachtal, Tel. (0 74 43) 12-62 51, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.fischer.de