Technological potential in an Industry 4.0 context

An Industry 4.0 production context doesn’t mean that the operator just disappears. On the contrary, it means they work more efficiently thanks to the various smart technologies at their disposal. Sirris recently built a new demo assembly line consisting of six cells into which various technologies are built that form part of the factory of the future. We would like to let you see what this can do. 

In October 2017, a new pilot line for the cost-effective production of small series was officially launched at the Smart & Digital Factory at our Kortrijk location. Companies can use this demonstrator to test the potential of Industry 4.0 in a realistic environment. 

Low-threshold efficiency 

New technologies and digitisation will become ever more important as companies prepare or start their transformation into factories of the future. Support remains necessary, especially for SMEs that focus on producing small series with many variants. These companies face multiple obstacles, with complexity being the biggest challenge. There is a need for simple, low-threshold solutions. 

An important step towards more efficient production consists of user-friendly interventions that make difficult and repetitive work easier by assisting the operator. Moreover, it must be possible to switch to a faster response time. This by done by reducing the series size to a single-piece flow, cutting the production buffer to zero and making use of one-touch logistics and self-managing production cells. 

Meaningful digitisation 

Our test version of the factory of the future consists of a six-cell assembly line. The line integrates operator-supportive solutions and strategies that enable a rapid response and provides technologies that enable first-time-right by, among other things, detecting and preventing human errors. 

Another important aspect of quality control in the factory of the future is learning from mistakes and striving for continuous improvement. The ICT solutions used must be sufficiently flexible to support this. Cumbersome, rigid automation and ICT hinder improvement and process innovation in many companies. The pilot line also relates to this. 

The setup consists of six cells that together form an assembly line for the efficient manufacture of product families with many variations. This 'single-piece-flow' becomes possible by way of meaningful and affordable digitisation using off-the-shelf solutions. The starting point is the operator, who must be able to work efficiently. This is achieved through various technologies, such as a cobot, AGV or digital work instructions that are projected on a screen or the work surface. The principles underlying QRM, lean production and the Kaizen method are also employed. The digital integration of the various processes and tools is also provided in this line.  

Project Factory 4.0 

The demo line was developed as part of the Factory 4.0 Interreg Project , which represents a cross-border approach to introducing companies in the border regions to technologies that match their capabilities and fall within the scope of Industry 4.0.  The project aims to contribute to the economic transition of the border area by accelerating the transformation of companies (SMEs) into Industry 4.0 factories of the future. The project guides the companies through a phased transformation.  

The demonstrator in detail 

Would you like to get to know our demonstrator better? We recently installed part of the setup at the MNE 2018 trade fair in Kortrijk (Courtrai), Belgium, where we ran a demo of robotic screws. We will deal with this at length in the next blog, which will be the first of a series dealing with the technologies installed in the demonstrator.  

The topics of this five-part blog series are: 

  1. Robotised screws
  2. Zero-effort translation from sales order to production order (customer-specific BOMO).
  3. The transport and presentation of materials
  4. Simplicity in cobot programming and power-orientated assembly
  5. Data coordination between the various subsystems