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Challenges in creating Factories of the Future

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16 January 2017

Following the news that Bosch is launching a research consortium to develop a concept to make manufacturing more efficient and profitable, Adrian Jennings VP of RTLS technology at Ubisense, looks at some the challenges that lie ahead for manufacturers in creating Factories of the Future. He asks: “if you think it’s hard to keep track of things now, how about when the whole factory changes layout at will?”

“The research work being conducted by Bosch is based on the idea of a Factory of the Future, which will see the traditional assembly line sliced into smaller, modular and self-contained workstations in order to create efficiencies and increase profitability. Yet this model has its own set of challenges. It’s hard enough keeping track of things with fixed assembly lines, but when the line itself can morph according to demand, then things get exponentially worse. So position constraints and position controls (making sure the right things happen in the right workstation) need to be reactive to the changes.

“The only way that this can feasibly be done is to make the controls all software-based so that they can be reconfigured with a click of the mouse. Better yet, the production modules are all smart enough to create their own controls around their specific micro-environment and when plugged all together it just blends into an end-to-end process. Either way, it’s important to get your workstation controls virtualized, and that’s where Ubisense comes in with its location-aware IoT solutions.

“Visualization is already delivering huge efficiencies for many manufacturers today. This is particularly true of the automotive sector where Ubisense’s software platform is helping to deal with increasing levels of complexity in the assembly process, which can see a range of vehicles and different specifications manufactured concurrently on the same assembly line. Ubisense’s SmartSpace enables manufacturers to manage real-time location and identification data from multiple sources to support industrial-scale mission-critical visibility and control. Detecting and responding to real-world interactions between people, things and the environment enables new kinds of visibility and control applications. And it is this which will form an important role in the development of Factories of the Future.

“There is much discussion around Factories of the Future, IoT and Industry 4.0 but not many manufacturers yet know exactly how they are going to get there. There is a lot of research needed, helped by bodies such as Bosch’s new consortium, and many practical details still to be confirmed. In the automotive world some pioneering manufacturers are already moving away from the fixed assembly line and by creating location-aware IoT environments have improved efficiencies across the business. While Ubisense’s technology alone will not deliver a Factory of the Future, installing the right software systems now will put manufacturers in a much stronger position to do so”.

Find out more about Ubisense's SmartSpace here