The implementation of Industry 4.0 technology is vital for companies in order to stay competitive in the future. However for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) this task can be more than challenging.
The introduction of connectivity features and automation technology into existing production lines, which is necessary for a successful transition into the next era of manufacturing requires huge investments and the acquisition of expertise in multiple disciplines.
In order to start the transition into connected manufacturing it is crucial to investigate the potential for improvement within the existing production set-ups and processes as well as along the supply chain. Based on this assessment it is possible to select the best fitting hardware and software solutions in order to optimise the production and business model.
However most SMEs will have limited options and financial resources restricting their possibilities. Besides the challenges of building the financial resources to investigate and develop the technical solutions for Industry 4.0 upgrades it can be difficult to get access to experts and specialists who are abel to work with the new equipment.
In Lemgo, Germany the Fraunhofer-Society and the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences have worked on a solution which aims to simplify and support SMEs with the transition into Industry 4.0: the SmartFactroyOWL.
The platform for knowledge and technology transfer which stretches out over generous 2000 sqm opened its doors yesterday. Within the research factory there are all the prerequisites for a smart factory-like production set-up which aims to be flexible and resource-efficient as well as adaptive to humans.
In the SmartFactoryOWL applied interdisciplinary research in Industry 4.0-topics like adaptability (plug-and-produce), big data, ressource efficiency and user-friendly human machine interaction will create the basis to support SMEs with knowledge and state-of-the-art technologies. The flexible and adaptable production systems which can be combined according to current needs are the ideal research base for SMEs. Within the factory the participants will even be able to take advantage of batch production, in order to test the equipment as close to reality as possible and to optimise software, production systems and processes.
In addition businesses will have access to training and seminar programs in the field of Industry 4.0. This will help SMEs to train their workforce and educate their personnel in the areas of digital manufacturing, intelligent automation, assembly systems, industrial engineering and lean management.
Adding to the good news is that the SmartFacoryOWL is embedded in a real production and IT environment as well as the leading-edge cluster it’s OWL.
For all of us that are not employed in a SME it is still great news as within the conducted research it is also possible to create new and reliable standards for future Industry 4.0 developments and technologies. Standardisation is a major challenge within industrial IoT applications and one of the main reasons for the slow adoption. With the ability to test different methods and technologies in real-life scenarios the contribution of the SmartFactoryOWL will hopefully result in the introduction of new standards soon.
We are looking forward to the first results and news of this project. For support with Industry 4.0 technology and applications feel free to approach EBV directly here or click here to visit our dedicated Industrial Microsite.