A smart factory is a highly digitized and connected production facility works with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, analytics, Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) and can run largely autonomously. Accordingly, the key characteristics of the smart factory are:
Extensive use of IoT sensors and devices connects machines and provides insight into their health and factory processes, creating an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Increasingly sophisticated analytics and applications based on AI and machine learning are taking over many of the routine tasks, allowing workers to focus on handling exceptions and making higher-level decisions. Robots are expected to populate smart factories for routine work and collaborate with humans.
The smart factory for individual products
The smart factory is also understood to be a production facility in which, thanks to the most advanced technologies, production can be carried out with only minimal human intervention. In this way, production can be individualized. Up to now, batch size 1, i.e. producing individual products profitably, has been more a matter of laborious manual work, which costs more time and money and can hardly keep up with rising demand. The concept of the factory of the future shows how batch size 1 can be made profitable in the future. Through the smart factory, the desire for personal product customization can be met and still be mass produced at low cost. The concept of such a factory has, of course, been sought for some time by some large companies in the automotive industry, such as Audi. Leather seats, optional speakers and umpteen different colors. Even today, a new car quickly becomes unique. But a completely autonomous production facility still doesn’t exist.