Buzzword demystifier: Factory 2.0

Kim Listmann, ABB Corporate Research, Ladenburg, Germany

The third installment of ABB Review’s Buzzword demystifier looks at production and the factory of the future – termed Factory 2.0

Many consumers are probably not aware of the extent to which retailer-side activities are already automated. When goods are ordered online, myriad warehousing and handling tasks are handled automatically. In a newer development,selected factories are shifting to a setup whereby production is driven by actual orders received online and effected automatically. A flexible Internet-connected factory manufactures many different products and can rapidly introduce new products to meet fast changing demands (driven by technological advancement or changes in the market environment, eg, fashion).

The factory layout and setup must be adaptable both in terms of equipment and of organization. Universal machines and robots will replace highly specialized ones in a step-by-step manner. The investment of suppliers will shift from being tied up in equipment and its configuration and will instead become software-based. The site at which the product is physically manufactured is no longer defined by a unique factory location, but the manufacturing site can vary from order to order according to available capacity and cost optimization of supply and delivery chains.

This factory of the future, or Factory 2.0, is characterized by six points:

  •  Virtualization will make data and parameters in a factory available digitally and seamlessly accessible to everyone. Because a single instantiation describes the entire factory and its processes, production can easily be duplicated elsewhere. The digital description also facilitates simulation, trouble shooting,and repairs.
  • Supply-chain and delivery will be subject to Internet-based trading of the received and produced goods. Sourcing and sales are automated and react to supply and demand (or predictions thereof).
  • Communication networks and interconnectedness are paramount, and total knowledge of activities and equipment statusis used for its optimal deployment.
  • Humans will transition from tedious and repetitive tasks and instead concentrate on problems that require dexterity and intelligence supported by new tools like augmented reality,virtual assistants or else.
  • Factories will be independent grid assets with autonomous energy supplies and the potential to offer ancillary services to the network operator.
  • The needed flexibility of the production is enabled through autonomous organization and control of the production process. Control and automation tasks are performed wherever needed in the cloud as well as among the intelligent devices. Devices and systems will autonomously respond to changes effecting the environment of the factory.

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