News from Germany

Diversity generates innovation

Cameras and sensors monitor the automated manufacturing process and robots intervene and rectify faults in an emergency. Drones fly through the factory and replenish supplies of material. If the warehouse is empty, software automatically orders more. Workers are nowhere to be seen. This is what the smart factory of the future looks like, and it has already become a reality in some German companies today. Machines, software and robots are linked together through superfast Internet connections. They communicate, learn from one another and identify products with the aid of RFID chips. However, Industry 4.0 is not only about machines manufacturing products autonomously and automatically. The fourth industrial revolution also says farewell to industrial mass production for anonymous customers. Instead individualised individualized products can be made to order in accordance with the customer’s needs. When an order is received at the factory, the software programs the production line. Thanks to artificial intelligence, the systems learn something new every time they process an ­order. Manufacturing for specific customers rather than the warehouse is cheaper and more ecological. Since most products are becoming increasingly digitaliseddigitized, it is also becoming increasingly rare for a business relationship to end with the sale of a finished product. Instead, hybrid products are being sold including services such as software updates and maintenance. The latest German technology for the smart factory is the digital floor. Equipped with electricity and data cables, it can supply and control the robots. That does away with the need for powerful batteries and complex positioning systems. Manufacturing systems can also be controlled through the floor and production lines modified as required. All the components in the smart factory are connected, flexible and mobile. Only the factory building itself is immovable – for the time being at least.

Digitalisierung in der Medizin
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