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The extent to which the manufacturing sector can benefit from industrial automation is clear from a case study provided by the Resource Efficiency Center of the Association of German Engineers (VDI): Blechwarenfabrik Limburg GmbH processes around 20,000 metric tons of tinplate a year. In the course of its modernization, the company recently introduced several measures to set up networked Industry 4.0 manufacturing structures. These include, among other things, the introduction of a production planning system (PPS), which controls all production processes via an additional manufacturing execution system (MES). Other modernization measures cover energy management, warehousing, logistics and the introduction of predictive maintenance functions. Solar cells on the factory roof now supply around a third of the total electricity requirements, while waste heat from production is used for heating.

The savings are considerable: the company has cut material and energy costs by half a million euros a year and the emission of greenhouse gases by 2,600 metric tons. The case study shows that the smart factory is already a reality and not just a distant hope. A recent study by Staufen AG reaches a similar conclusion.