The prospect of creating a factory that’s fit for the future can seem challenging, particularly for smaller companies that don’t have large budgets and teams of internal specialists. With so many new technologies and solutions available, it can be difficult to know where to start. But setting up a future-facing factory doesn’t need to cost the earth, nor does it need to be overwhelmingly complex or time-consuming. To help realise the factory of tomorrow, today, Bosch Rexroth shares eight practical and manageable steps that you can take to dramatically improve your factory – and reap the rewards.
Retrofit existing machines to unlock the potential of Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 has opened up a world of possibilities for manufacturers. By connecting machines and analysing the data, performance and productivity can be optimised. Fortunately, there’s no need to replace existing machinery to enjoy these benefits. IoT Gateways connect new and existing machines easily and cost-effectively to the IoT world.
Use a lightweight robot
Collaborative lightweight robots are an important building block for the versatile factory of the future. In the coming years, the market for cobots is expected to grow by 15 to 20% each year. With the acquisition of a majority stake in the Danish manufacturer Kassow Robots, Bosch Rexroth is expanding its product portfolio in this area. This will primarily benefit customers in the consumer goods and mobility industries, including battery production, and in semiconductor production. Thanks to the combination of reach and payload, the cobots can perform a wide range of automation tasks: from packing, machine loading and pick-and-place applications to visual quality control. Compared to smaller industrial robots, integration costs are much lower.
Incorporate an AMR or AGV
Another essential feature of the flexible factory is autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and automated guided vehicles (AGVs). They deliver components on demand from a central store to an assembly point on the production line. The recently enhanced Active Shuttle is an AMR that finds its way around the factory independently. Using camera-based 3D obstacle detection, it can avoid obstacles. Thanks to the integrated personal protection, the Active Shuttle can move freely around the plant. As with production robots, you could start with a single AMR and expand your fleet gradually.
Get an intelligent floor
With the right foundation, so much more is possible in your factory. An intelligent floor can identify your devices and machines, manage them, exchange data with them and supply them with electricity, media and more – without cables. This enables you to rapidly change your production line as and when needed and adapt quickly to market demands. Bosch Rexroth’s intelligent floor is completely modular, so you can include new functions, such as localisation or safety features, by simply exchanging a few modules in your floor. This also means that you could start by incorporating it into one area of your factory and expanding it over time as your needs grow.
Digitalise production processes and rethink automation
Connectivity is key in the modern factory. By connecting everything from individual machines to entire production lines, from the sensor to the cloud, the NEXEED software from Bosch Connected Industry optimises mechanical engineering, manufacturing and intralogistics processes regarding transparency, agility, cost, quality, and time. NEXEED ensures greater transparency and identifies deviations, which makes production more cost-effective and improves product quality. It further helps to implement system and machine projects in assembly, testing and process technology in a targeted and efficient manner and offers intuitive operating concepts.
Use an interactive software solution
With so much valuable data being collected from the factory line, a software solution that enables people on the shop floor to view the information in a clear and helpful format is essential. Bosch Rexroth’s Active Cockpit does just that. It’s an interactive software solution that provides live access to all the relevant manufacturing and logistics data. Because it shows the KPIs in a standardised format, deviations become apparent straightaway. As a result, employees on site can react immediately and initiate corrective measures.
Incorporate AIoT solutions
When AI is combined with IoT to create the Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT), the result is a powerful combination that will shape the world of automation. The AIoT has the potential to automate activities previously carried out by people and to increase the productivity of machines and factories. With AI, machines better understand their environment and act accordingly. Incorporating AIoT factory solutions needn’t require huge investment, new infrastructure or specialist knowledge. Bosch Rexroth’s Smart Item Picking solution is a good example of how you can incorporate AIoT solutions in small, easy steps. With the help of AI, the software recognises the products to be grasped and works out how to pick them up smoothly. Hardware and software components are modular and support typical cameras, grippers and robots from various manufacturers. It’s an economical alternative to manual order picking.
Harness the power of software and open ecosystems
Software is transforming today’s factories and offering a number of tangible benefits. Whether you want to save time and cost, increase production or better understand your machine performance, software may well offer an affordable solution. With its hardware and software solutions, Bosch Rexroth’s automation platform ctrlX AUTOMATION is like a smartphone for automation with corresponding app technology. Because it’s relatable to devices people use in their everyday lives, it’s intuitive and easy to use. Its consistently open architecture and web-based engineering enables users to create, add or share automation functions via an app. As a consistently open automation platform, ctrlX AUTOMATION provides all the building blocks for complete automation solutions with the ctrlX World ecosystem. The system is modular, scalable and covers the requirements for almost all applications as needed. In the ctrlX Store, users can access numerous apps from Bosch Rexroth and third-party suppliers or create their own applications. All of this allows you to expand your system according to future requirements.