Digital factory solutions - blazing the trail for Industry 4.0 Are the right solutions already available for the production processes of the future?

Digital Factory Solutions

Industry 4.0 is an umbrella title for the massive trend of making production technologies and processes more agile, flexible and transparent using internet and software technologies. Flexible automation technology, the “Industry 4.0” initiative, the “industrial Internet” – these and many other terms represent the radical change that is shaking the foundations of manufacturing. In the process, a key approach is the intelligent networking of autonomous production systems and units which adapt independently to the situation and configure themselves.

Therefore, Industry 4.0 is a new paradigm for the structure, planning and execution of production processes through the use of modern IT and communication methods. It is yielding completely new ideas and concepts in which IT solutions are crucially blazing the trail from two main perspectives:

First, 3D-based simulation software allows visualization and validation of processes and production tasks. This is important, because production plants are seldom established from scratch, but are replanned while production is running. That in itself is nothing new — appropriate solutions for the digital factory have long been in use. But what is new is this: To transform the ideas and concepts of Industry 4.0 into reality, virtual factories and model plants must now be an exact representation of the real production systems. Not just geometrically and kinematically, but also in regard to the logical behavior and control of the manufacturing units. They therefore represent a sort of twin or shadow factory. This is the only way to get from stiff, prescribed processes to agile, self-organized production units.

Secondly, a digital factory allows implementation of new manufacturing processes, plant concepts and technologies that would be too expensive or even impossible without simulation-based solutions. The more robotic applications are used — not only for simple handling tasks, but also for complex production steps — the greater will be the need for tools for programming and simulation. IT solutions are leading the way to these complex applications, because they give the operator the necessary programming and simulation environment to make applications that could no longer be efficiently represented through a manual teach-in or would not show the necessary process quality.

Software for the production processes of the future

The production processes of the future are building on new systems, structures and processes. Digital factory software makes an essential contribution to this change:

  • Better networking of plants and IT systems (IoT)
  • Better transparency of data and information (production monitoring, predictive maintenance)
  • Decentralized, independent decision-making with cyber-physical systems
  • Technically improved and safer working conditions, e.g. with the use of cooperative robots

The more robotic applications are used — not only for simple handling tasks, but also for complex production steps — the greater will be the need for tools for programming and simulation. IT solutions are leading the way for these complex applications, because they give the operator the necessary programming and simulation environment to make applications that could no longer be efficiently represented through a manual teach-in or would not show the necessary process quality.

In order to accompany and enable this permanent revolution, a new generation of software for the digital factory is needed. Our solution: FASTSUITE EDITION 2. We look forward to discussing the potential that the solution can reveal for you.

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