Inside the Smartest Factories in the World

Inside the Smartest Factories in the World

In 1913, Henry Ford introduced the moving assembly line and changed the manufacturing facility forever. A simple conveyor belt reduced the manufacturing time of the Ford Model T from 12.5 hours to 93 minutes. Production grew from 100 vehicles per day to 1,000. The concept of “mass production” was born. 

Today, the manufacturing sector continues to innovate, but this time it is the “smart factory.” Simply put, the smart factory is a manufacturing plant equipped with digital technologies like IoT, artificial intelligence, and cyber physical systems. The technologies work to boost productivity or reduce costs within the plant.

Similar to the assembly line, smart factories create drastic performance improvements over the traditional manufacturing plant. Manufacturers in all industries are now beginning to adopt the smart factory strategy and reap the benefits. 

Bosch

Bosch has a smart factory in Blaichach, Germany to manufacture vehicle safety systems. The facility is equipped with automated robots that do much of the production and assembly. Workers are given virtual reality headsets to provide a more immersive experience in the design and construction phase of their process. Every single material in the factory is tracked using RFID technology to streamline logistics and reduce inventory. Artificial intelligence is continuously analyzing performance across the entire production line to give operators insights into failures, losses, and benchmarking across all of Bosch’s facilities. The digital transformation of this factory enables as little as 3,000 workers to produce 6.7 million units per year. 

Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric has a smart factory in Batam, Indonesia where it manufactures a wide range of electrical components. The company has turned every machine into a cyber physical system that feeds data into the factory’s main system. Workers can then see real time information on the performance and maintenance requirements for each machine. Maintenance workers use augmented reality when inspecting equipment. Using a tablet, they scan a machine and the tablet screen guides them through the maintenance that needs to be performed. This digitally transformed facility has been a success with a 46% reduction in wasted materials and 17% less time spent on maintenance. 

Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble has turned its oldest manufacturing plant into a smart factory in Rakovník, Czechia. Built in 1875, the facility has seen dramatic upgrades over the years and is listed in the World Economic Forum’s top 9 most advanced facilities in the world. The factory is equipped with sensors, such as pH, viscosity, and colour to automate quality monitoring of various soaps. Sensors, cameras, and scanners also monitor the production line and can change recipes on the product packaging while the line continues to run. A software system allows P&G to test the supply chain, spot bottlenecks, and deliver products to the market faster. All of these digital transformation initiatives have reduced inventory by 43% and plant cost by 20%. It even increased productivity by an impressive 160%.

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A4 Systems specializes in developing cyber physical systems, which are the backbone of smart factories. Cyber physical systems transform physical objects and processes to digital so you can collect more data. That data is used to draw insights and improve your overall manufacturing performance.