What is a Digital Factory?

Roboyo will be present at the Hannover Messe in the trade fair line up “Digital Factory” as one of a few selected start ups in April 2016. Like so many other terms currently used (e.g. Internet of things, Industrie 4.0), “Digital Factory” does not mean much to many people and may simply be more confusing than helpful in trying to understand the digital world we are living in.

What is the Digital Factory?

Gregor and Medvecký define the Digital Factory as “the description of the state of production of companies that rely mainly on IT-driven and integrated solutions between machine and machine or man” (Digital Factory – Theory and Practice). Behind this concept are hopes for more growth, cost reductions and quality improvements that result from the integration of production and business processes. This leads to the fact that industries grow together more closely through common interfaces, technical standards and better exchange. In the past, it was for example, difficult to operate with a fast and efficient exchange of systems of production, administration and sales without human interfaces.

The Digital Factory in practice

A prime example of a “Digital Factory” is Siemens’ electronics plant in Amberg, Germany. There Simatic controllers are manufactured. This plant is known worldwide as one of the flagship models for a “Digital Factory”. “The production works largely automated. 75 percent of the value chain is done by machines and computers independently; a quarter of the work is done by people. Only at the start of production, which is the output component, a bare board, is touched by the hand of man – an employee sends it to the production line. From now on, everything is machine controlled. The highlight: Simatic controllers themselves regulate the production of Simatic. From the start of production to delivery around a thousand such controls are in use,” explains Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Büttner, Head of Electronics Manufacturing Amberg. In addition, you can track each product to the smallest part by controlling the product life cycle. Every day the factory produces 50 million process information sources, which are then fed into the Manufacturing Execution System Simatic IT. This makes it easy for the company to  know precisely about its products and communicate through an interface with the development department to give instant feedback on new ideas. “The products control their production themselves. They communicate with the machine their product code, the requirements that they have, and which production steps are needed next.”

Knowledge work and creativity is needed

The employees still remain indispensable for Siemens in this example, however, the focus of the work is shifting. The future of work is more and more in the conceptual thinking, design and knowledge work. On the other hand, recurring administrative tasks in production and in the administration of companies will decrease. This saves each company money, which may be invested again in a digitalizing its’ factory. Additionally, it decreases boring, mundane tasks for its workforce.

Our solutions for the Digital Factory

A project like the Digital Factory at Siemens introduces a whole set of new systems in the enterprise, which in turn leads to more and more interfaces that need to be set up and managed. In addition, these interfaces are usually not standardized, which adds complexity to building the interfaces. Building interfaces between many systems is usually costly, complex and consumes a lot of other resources. Many companies are trying to avoid these investments by building workarounds such as leveraging offshore resources and manual workarounds. The major drawbacks in terms of time, cost and error rate are often neglected. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) provides a comprehensive, easy to manage and quick-to-install solution to avoid such workarounds. This saves costs, reduces complexity and increases time-to-market. It helps companies to respond to customer needs faster and more efficiently and effectively.

Robotic Process Automation supplies an inexpensive and perfectly adapted solution for many issues that arise from the “Digital Enterprise” concept. Our software Robots help companies today to improve their quality in data input, to reduce costs in the administration and to improve communication between the machines.

 

Tags: Digital Factory, Future of Work, Manufacturing, RPA

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