Tech UPTechnologyThe factories of the future that are already here

The factories of the future that are already here

“Especially in exceptional times, such as the current crisis, connectivity allows companies to be less vulnerable and helps them maintain balance,” says Rolf Najork, member of the Bosch Board of Directors and head of the Industrial Technology business area. For example, where the risk of infection makes physical proximity challenging, shift changes can be handled digitally. Digitization enables remote monitoring and maintenance of systems and machines without the need for an on-site technician. Smart software can track products and deliveries and ensure replenishment from anywhere. All of this is possible thanks to Industry 4.0.

Connected solutions will help make manufacturing and logistics simpler, more efficient, more flexible, and also more robust. This is what Bosch, the pioneer of the IoT, believes, which began incorporating connectivity into manufacturing and logistics in 2012, both in its own plants and in those of its customers. Already in 2019 Bosch generated sales of more than 750 million euros with connected solutions for manufacturing and logistics, an increase of 25% over the previous year.

The factory of the future

In the factory of the future, the only things that are static and fixed are the floors, walls and ceilings. The factory of the future is constantly reinventing itself as needed. It is guided by the vision of a manufacturing setup that can produce thousands of different products and variants, down to a unit lot size, without the need for costly modifications. With the help of Industry 4.0, it is possible to increase productivity by up to 25% at individual locations.

Taking the example of Bosch, the transition in the automotive industry means pressure on the costs of its powertrain division, as well as pressure to adapt. Precisely for this reason, the division will invest around 500 million euros in digitizing and adding connectivity to its production operations in the coming years. The expected savings will be double: approximately one billion euros by 2025. And it is expected that with the use of artificial intelligence (AI) these savings will increase. The focus is on AI-based solutions for predictive maintenance of machinery, to ensure quality and to improve production processes. For example, artificial intelligence is used in highly complex wafer factories – such as Bosch’s in Reutlingen – for detailed production scheduling, saving time and costs as you guide wafers through more than 500 processing stages. This alone means 5% more yield per wafer, with a payback time of just three months.

Individual projects and large-scale implementation

In Germany, six out of ten industrial companies with more than 100 employees already use Industry 4.0 applications, according to a recent study by the industry association “Bitkom”. However, in many cases, the applications are piecemeal. The VDMA, the Association of German Machinery and Equipment Manufacturers, estimates that 80 percent of the existing machinery in the country has yet to be digitized.

For companies, the biggest obstacle to implementing Industry 4.0 is the large sums of capital that this requires. In fact, machinery can also be adapted with information technology and sensor systems. Doing so opens the door to the industrial Internet of Things. The Bosch Rexroth plant in Erbach, Germany, shows how even minor investments in large-scale production lines can be profitable: you spent a total of € 25,000 to equip these lines with sensors and light barriers, and now you save around € 200,000 year.

Connected solutions

Now Bosch is introducing 5G-capable, software- based control technology that is open to third-party applications, marking the end of isolated solutions in factories. With more than 30 data protocols, the new Bosch Rexroth automation platform will be the control center of the factory of the future. Bosch Connected Industry offers more than just an “app store” for manufacturing and logistics. The various software applications can be ordered, used, and combined with each other as required. All machine data is available in a clear and standardized format, ensuring greater transparency and efficiency in the factory. An excellent example of how to harmonize economic and ecological considerations is the Bosch Energy Platform. Once a machine has been connected to it, its energy consumption can be tracked, analyzed and controlled. The result is cheaper factories that require less energy and emit less CO2. Connectivity will play an important role in making manufacturing climate neutral

Bosch is developing the factory of the future, but first tests and validates the products internally, and then markets them to other companies. “Products and solutions must adapt quickly to any task. To be intuitive, open and compatible with third-party applications, and to function efficiently and economically ”. This is what the German company calls “making #LikeABosch “.

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