The factory of the future – how far we have come and where we are going
Dr. Heiner Lang, Senior Vice President Business Unit Automation & Electrification Solutions, Bosch Rexroth AG
Imagine a factory where you could change everything apart from the floor, roof and walls within a few days or even hours? Full flexibility, individuality and scalability. This is exactly what the factory of the future is about. The requirements as regards future production are marked by increasingly short product life cycles, smaller batch sizes as well as individual product design and forms. There is no stopping developments on the way to efficient, adaptable production.
At the Hannover Messe 2018 trade fair, Bosch and Bosch Rexroth will show what is available today, what will be standard tomorrow and what developments can be expected in the future.
Connecting installed machines the easy way
The first step involves connecting all sensors, machines, systems and processes, i.e. everything that provides information in an industrial environment. Solutions such as the Rexroth IoT Gateway Products connect all areas of production from sensors to machine data in just a few steps and hus allow “unsparing” transparency and monitoring of the overall system. This provides a basis for condition monitoring solutions for example and, when coupled with domain knowledge, highly effective mechanisms for predictive maintenance.
Decentralized automation concepts from Rexroth, for example drive and control systems without control cabinets, already make it possible to expand machines and systems as necessary in a modular fashion. Communication takes place via open standards such as IO Link, Multi Ethernet and, increasingly, OPC UA for machine-to-machine data transfer. Intelligent assembly stations such as our ActiveAssist identify assembly elements, call up the corresponding work plans, guide the employee through the assembly process (or teach them to monitor it) and optimize work steps and quality. Thanks to clear instructions, they make it possible to guide even untrained employees through the various assembly processes and reduce error costs by up to 40 percent. With these and other examples, we will show in Hanover that the factory of the future is becoming a tangible reality.
Digital twins gaining ground
Working closely with machine manufacturers and end users, research institutions and IT companies, Bosch and Bosch Rexroth are also developing the first use cases for the near future. Digital twins as virtual copies of all components, modules and entire value creation chains play a central role here. In Hanover, Bosch Rexroth together with the software provider Dassault Systèmes and the machine manufacturer Gnutti Transfer will show the opportunities for planning, design, simulation and optimization offered by the digital twin for engineering processes in mechanical engineering and production planning. Together with the Rampf Group, Bosch Rexroth has developed an intelligent machine bed in which sensors measure and influence the temperature and pressures in the cooling system during operation. With a machine tool located outside the trade fair site and connected via a long-distance line, Bosch Rexroth will demonstrate how production processes can be analyzed, changes detected and optimized and variations or wear identified in good time.
As an introduction to connectivity, analysis and the condition monitoring of production data, we have developed SCD (Sense Connect Detect), a new, low-cost generation of sensors that are particularly easy to integrate. Together with a smart device app (iOS or Android) or the IoT Gateway, it collects and processes additional data for even better status monitoring.
At the trade fair, we will show very practically how data from a certain number of SCD sensors can be collected as well as analyzed and managed in the cloud. We want to demonstrate to users what opportunities are available in practice and how easy it is to obtain results. Our goal centers around providing production and sensor data within a few hours and allowing everyone to use and experience Industry 4.0.
Bosch and Bosch Rexroth will also show solutions for the area of intralogistics which at the moment is only partially connected. With Nexeed Intralogistics Execution for example, information regarding the entire fleet is available virtually in real time: from the storage location of the material or the status of vehicles and transport routes to the proportion of empty and full runs. Even in intralogistics, the software provides a level of transparency which is already standard in production systems.
With the Laser Localization Software Module (LLC), Bosch provides a key basic technology for autonomous vehicles in intralogistics. With the help of a laser sensor, LLC records and determines with great precision the position of the relevant vehicle and the goods unloaded within buildings and halls. Unlike with other approaches, LLC does not require complex infrastructure with magnetic rails or reflectors. Instead, the solution guides itself independently and continually, even in dynamically changing environments.
At the moment, Bosch Rexroth is also developing the ActiveShuttle, the first Level 5 autonomous vehicle for transport within companies.
Nexeed Track and Trace is used to monitor and track the flow of goods outside a company. With the help of sensors, the goods automatically feed information about their position and status to the cloud via the mobile communications network, allowing logistical staff to call up the exact delivery date depending on the actual position and to optimize their materials and capacity planning.
New business models taking shape
In the foreseeable future, only the walls, the floor and the ceiling in factories will be unchangeable. It will be possible to configure all machines and systems quickly to create new lines and production as a whole will take place not only in the real world but also in the virtual world with digital twins providing an absolutely realistic copy and demonstrating behavior long before the hardware is ever used. Production resources will communicate with each other across levels – wirelessly via the new 5G mobile communications standard and in real time via OPC UA with TSN. This will result in new business models for machine manufacturers and automators. Industrial end users will invest less and less capital in machines. Instead, they will pay operators to carry out process steps, lease machines temporarily or purchase system availability as a service. Here too, Bosch and Bosch Rexroth are already working with customers to come up with the first models.