How Smart Factories Can Become a Reality

According to the study “Geschäftsmodell-Innovation durch Industrie 4.0. Chancen und Risiken für den Maschinen- und Anlagenbau“ (Business Model Innovation Through Industry 4.0: Opportunities and Risks for Mechanical and Plant Engineering, Wieselhuber Study Findings), German companies are the world leaders in the field of factory machinery and installations, and have the best prospects for playing a predominant role as leading market suppliers through development, operation and global marketing of Industry 4.0 products.


One of the advantages of Industry 4.0 is a very significant cost savings:

  • Safety stocks across the whole supply chain can be reduced continuously through real-time information (estimated potential: 30 to 40 percent).
  • Increased transparency can also accelerate the ability to make informed decisions in the area of complexity costs, helping to avoid waste to a great extent (estimated potential: 60 to 70 percent).


Another advantage is the high degree of flexibility achieved by implementing Industry 4.0. Flexibility is a crucial prerequisite for any company wanting to remain sustainably competitive. The factory of the future – a “Smart Factory” (wikipedia/Industry 4.0/Smart_Factory) – embodies the best of both worlds, combining a small workshop’s ability to adapt to individual customer demands with the automation and affordability of mass production. A customized mass production, as it were.


In order to make Smart Factories a reality, three things are needed: money, the complete interconnectivity of all components (Internet of Things) and a high intelligence, as automated as possible, that ensures that operators and employees can get the most out of the system.


1.2 Billion Euros for Factories of the Future


Digitization projects in the industrial sector often fail due to lack of resources. Consequently, only a few fully networked factories - in which all processes are centrally monitored and automatically controlled - are presently in operation.


In 2014 the EU began the second phase of funding Factories of the Future (FoF) (eu/factories-of-the-future). The primary intention of this project is to increase the competitiveness of small and medium sized manufacturing companies. Through 2020 approximately 1.2 billion euros will be made available to FoF, a part of the innovation program Horizon 2020.


Mastering the Challenges


As part of the future-oriented project Industry 4.0 (Projekt-industrie-4-0), the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has identified three challenges that Smart Factories need to confront on the factory floor.

  • Standards and IT architectures: Efforts will move towards "reference architecture Industry 4.0".
  • IT security: Diligent attention needs to be paid to addressing and combating the fear that data and trade secrets in Industry 4.0 are not secure.
  • The integration of IT into the production process, an integral part of Industry 4.0, brings with it massive changes, particularly in work processes and work content as well as upgrades to the qualification profiles of experienced engineers and skilled workers in the factories.


Human Intelligence is Still in Demand


Smart Factories have a high degree of automation. The manufacturing facilities and logistics systems are largely self-organizing and do not require human intervention. The cyber-physical systems that communicate using the Internet of Things provide the technical basis for this. Part of this future scenario is communication between product and production plant: The product comes with its own manufacturing information in machine-readable form.


However, this by no means implies that Smart Factories operate entirely without human intelligence. Purchasing and development departments, service teams and other staff will still be required in the future to enable long-term success. In addition to the new skill profiles mentioned above, employees will need systems that can help them ensure seamless operation of the facilities and support them in steady and permanent improvement; the complete digitization of production is not the end of the development, but rather its starting point.


360-Degree View is the Goal


Employees of any organization are faced with the following challenges:

  • Standards and IT architectures: Efforts will move towards "reference architecture Industry 4.0".
  • The data of a company on any given topic is scattered across applications and departmental boundaries. This makes it difficult to generate real knowledge. Information about a component has to be pieced together from material in various databases, maintenance protocols, documentation and e-mails.
  • From this, and from to the fact that complexity in general continues to escalate, it follows that no one in the company can have a real overview of problem areas or trends.


Both of the above challenges make the highly complex issue of Industry 4.0 particularly relevant.


Enterprise Search (wikipedia.org/enterprise_search) delivers the technology that supports employees on every level to meet these challenges and fulfil the requirements that ensue from the Smart Factory environment. Enterprise search

  • links and automates all data sources, and structures the information found, so that relevant knowledge can be gleaned from it
  • allows the data to remain where it originates (e.g. in the logistics or PLM system) and thus reduces to a minimum the effort involved in implementation and operation
  • uses semantic analysis and Machine/Deep Learning to create usable units of meaning from humanly perceived clutter
  • ensures that only authorized employees are allowed to see certain content.


Thus, each employee has all the relevant information he needs about a particular topic at the touch of a button. In other words, he gains a 360-degree view of each and every component in the Smart Factory.


Click here for information about how a modern enterprise search solution can refine and enhance Smart Factories (Mindbreeze.com/the-european-enterprise-search-appliance).