The sensible manufacturing facility shall be achieved step-by-step

You yourself say that IT in the factory is actually the biggest lever for a successful transformation. However, the IT backbone in particular does not simply flip the industrial company from the inside out. Where can players from the automotive industry start?

The big sticking point is production planning. The landscapes of the classic ERP and MES require massive efforts to renovate them. Decentralized planning can help with multifactorial systems, where individual means of production coordinate with each other locally and can interact quickly and flexibly. These local concepts must be linked to MES systems, because that is the only way we can approach the intelligent production model. Otherwise, the old structures will always limit me and the capabilities of the smart factory will not be fully exploited.

Let’s consider the transition to the age of electric mobility and digitization: is it a clear advantage for car manufacturers to set up a factory in the new field? Tesla in Grünheide and Volkswagen’s Trinity plant in Wolfsburg are just two current examples…

It is always good to start on a green field. However, the situation is still a bit undesirable at the moment, because not everything you can or want to use is there yet. Classic automation is still used, but in the end you get a mixed result. The opportunities lie more in the little things, such as changing the IT architecture. It is extremely denial to redesign an entire work. I’d rather start with one deal and try it out, create stability, standardize, introduce first use cases, add more functionality – that would be the right approach for me. But there is a clear advantage of the green field …

Will that be?

Production can already be divided mechanically, Off the assembly line and towards island production. This is especially exciting for manufacturers of classic cars, as they will surely continue to produce with a high degree of variance for years to come. We will test a phase where manufacturers will produce electronic cars, combustion engines or fuel cell vehicles in parallel. Isolated production makes sense because the vehicle in question can determine which deals are really needed and which are not. Such a model would bring us closer to seeing an IT-driven smart factory over time.

You said that planning and building a plant in a new field is currently not feasible. what do you mean by that?

Many technological advances are still in their infancy – or several threads run in parallel. Think about last year’s video formats. Some manufacturers have endorsed the wrong horse. It is often unpredictable at first that what will triumph and develop further. So it’s a no-brainer that you have to make a decision in advance. Although I would say that we are slowly approaching a unified and reasonable technological foundation, the key word: management envelope. By this we mean the realization of the digital twin, that is, the entirety of actual information about a component or system. Many companies and research partners are now working with the management structure concept.

At some point the green meadow will turn into a brown meadow – do you have any tips on how to keep the plants fit for a long time? After all, nothing is as constant as change…

The IT industry is a good example of this: virtualization and cloud technologies have already made people completely independent of devices. In the past, we’ve invested an incredible amount in Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), controllers and instrumentation in the industry – fixed at all times. But the faster you can virtualize processes even at the lowest levels, the more flexible the plant will be in the future setting. We call it the Industrial Edge Cloud concept: We harness the computing power in the factory, run the right software on it and keep it up to date. Over time, only servers will have to be replaced – but these are now standard processes and no longer pose problems for production.

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