Factory of the Future: The Visions of Bosch, Festo, and SAP
Digital twins, robots that learn, and artificial intelligence: At HANNOVER MESSE, the factory of tomorrow is taking shape. What ideas do enterprises have?25 Apr 2018
Bosch Develops an Adaptable Factory
Bosch is working on a factory that can be altered with ease – barring walls, ceilings, and floors. Assembly lines are designed to have a modular structure: If a new order is pending, the machines simply restructure automatically.
A decentralized automation concept with drive and control technology makes this possible. Communication runs through 5G and energy comes from the ground via an inductive charging system.
Companies should aim to achieve new levels of flexibility to master the requirements of future production, such as continuously shorter product lifecycles, smaller batch sizes, and customized products. The prerequisite for this is gathering as much relevant data as possible. Therefore, enterprises must connect factory-wide sensors, machines, systems, and processes. In an ideal scenario, the entire production process will be transparent and it will be feasible to efficiently monitor and maintain it. Much of this is already possible as Bosch shows at HANNOVER MESSE.
Festo Optimizes Collaboration between Man and Machine
People won’t disappear from factories in the foreseeable future. However, they will receive considerably more support in their activities – from colleagues that are not human.
Festo shows what collaboration between man and machine could look like. The connected working environment, BionicWorkplace, unifies self-learning systems, artificial intelligence, and automation solutions. The operator works with a bionic robot arm that can be controlled with movement, touch, or speech. The lightweight robot, BionicCobot, from Festo moves using hydraulics – something that makes it both sturdy and flexible enough to safely interact with human employees.
Software assesses interaction and deduces the optimal workflow. In this way, the system continuously learns and improves itself. Skills and processes that have been learned can then be transferred to systems at other locations.
SAP Wants to Eliminate the Assembly Line
Digital twins are at the center of SAP’s appearance at HANNOVER MESSE. The technology enables manufacturers and operators to monitor and analyze their machine throughout the entire lifecycle on a collective platform. This means that impending defects can be discovered at an early stage as well as identifying potential for fundamental optimization.
Another interesting approach from SAP is smart, automated assembly workstations. They understand which order has priority, if the required resources are available, how long their battery will last, and much more. Using this knowledge, they independently decide whether it is more efficient to skip an assembly step first and then perform it later. This means assembly lines are no longer linear but flexible. This could mark the beginning of the end for the assembly line.
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